These Son House "field recordings" were made in 1941 and ‘42 by folklorist Alan Lomax, who toured the country with a crude 300-pound machine documenting all sorts of regional music.
In the 1930s, Son House served as the main inspiration to fellow Mississippians Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, arguably the two greatest innovators the blues has known. House hadn’t recorded in 11 years when Lomax him tracked down in Robinsonville, Mississippi. The Depression had forced the slide guitarist and vocalist to work various odd jobs to supplement the meager income he received from playing picnics and country balls. Lomax visited the Delta to preserve the music of House and other bluesmen on acetate.
In his travels, Lomax recorded thousands of bands, choirs, singers and common folk. He later wrote that his sessions with House spawned the most memorable blues he ever documented. In 1990, Lomax’s scratchy recordings of Son House were lovingly remixed by Biograph Records owner Arnold Caplin with help from the Library of Congress. The result is one of the most powerful country-blues CDs ever made.
What immediately strikes you here is the emotional resonance of Son House’s music. His mighty voice seems to emerge from the very core of his soul, and you get a strong inkling of what it must have been like to hear this man pour forth on a steamy Delta night in a rickety juke joint. House started out as a preacher, and throughout his life was torn between religion and whiskey-fueled carousing. The blues enabled House to reconcile his spiritual and secular inclinations. No bluesman has ever sung with more mystical force.
The first five tracks here – all from the 1941 session – are some of the most famous blues sides ever recorded. They feature House with his good friend Willie Brown on guitar, Joe Martin on fiddle and LeRoy Williams on harmonica. The format raw Delta blues in a group setting served as the inspiration for the Chicago blues bands of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. In the background you can even hear a couple of steam locomotives roar by the trackside grocery store where the session took place. The remaining 10 tracks are solo performances with House in excellent form on slide guitar and vocals.
Son House contributed as much to the evolution of blues music as any human being, and this Biograph CD is a classic overview of his work.
I was first exposed to jazz in 1961 (at age 10) when I was in a shopping arcade in Southport, England with my parents. I fell in love with the music playing over the PA system; Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet
I was first exposed to jazz in 1961 (at age 10) when I was in a shopping arcade in Southport, England with my parents. I fell in love with the music playing over the PA system; Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. After going through Rock 'n Roll, the Beatles and Heavy Metal/Hard Rock phases over the next eight or so years, I finally bought my first jazz album; We're All Together Again for the First Time by Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan. I was hooked on jazz, and still am 40+ years later.
I moved from England to the USA in 2002, and founded the Brookfield Jazz Society in 2005.
I became editor of the quarterly IAJRC Journalin 2012. The magazine goes to the worldwide membership of the IAJRC (International Association of Jazz Record Collectors) and many major libraries and educational establishments around the world.
As well as being the editor of the IAJRC Journal, I write about jazz and review CDs, vinyl, DVDs and books on jazz.
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