Son House – Forever On My Mind
This live set was captured well at Wabash College, Indiana (1964). There are blues singers & there are blues legends. Son House (Eddie James House, Jr.) an influence on the late legend Robert Johnson was one such musician born in 1902. Some even say because of the Robert Johnson myths, controversies, mystery & violent death that Son House was deprived of more notoriety & success.
During Son’s rediscovery in the early 60s, the 62-year-old Son House hadn’t played for over 20 years, maybe more. He released 78s as early as 1930 (Paramount Records), played with & along with Charly Patton.
This collection of 8 is considered a “new” LP since none were previously released. “Preachin’ Blues,” “Death Letter,” “Pony Blues,” are just some. Though not from the 1930s the restoration/clarity of these historic 1964 pieces is remarkable. It would be easy to suggest this would be appreciated only by blues aficionados, & purists like Keith Richards, but anyone who digs vintage blues will find this of interest.
House played a new steel-bodied National resonator guitar like the one used in his earliest recordings. To sharpen his memory the late Canned Heat guitarist Al Wilson gave Son House a refresher course on his own songbook. (That’s great trivia).
The showcase here is the first time Son House played before a white audience since it was young Caucasians who were attracted to the blues genre. Blacks focused on soul & R&B music. The college made the tapes, gave them to Son House’s new manager Dick Waterman.
The recordings on Forever On My Mind (Easy Eye Sound/Concord-Dropped March 18) are pristine. The title song uses pieces from Willie Brown’s “Future Blues,” & House’s own “Louise McGhee,” & gives listeners a peek at traditional Delta blues improvisation. Some tunes are traditional, the majority are originals. “Levee Camp Moan,” is dynamically recorded with the guitar sparkling with its vibrant strumming & picking.
The dominating sound is the slide guitar style, his emotional, rhythmic delivery & vocal power. Success eluded Son House in his youth (he didn’t learn to play guitar until his 20s) despite playing with Charly Patton so he retired in 1930 (except for some 1940s Alan Lomax field recordings).
To some, the music may sound primitive musically & technically. It’s raw & not commercially sweet. This is the reason not to criticize Elvis Presley. It was Presley in the 50s who brought the blues to a wider white audience that led to the curiosity of the original singers & writers. Son House had far more success in the 60s than the 30s. Not because of Elvis directly (since Elvis recorded Big Boy Arthur Crudup, Junior Parker, Lowell Fulson, Jimmy Reed & Jesse Stone), but indirectly.
A market for the blues opened that continued into the 60s by The Rolling Stones, Canned Heat & the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
Son House passed away on Oct. 19, 1988. The image is archival. The 43-minute CD: Produced by Dan Auerbach, available @ https://store.easyeyesound.com/collections/son-house-forever-on-my-mind