Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Son House: The Music, Part I

Someone asked me to name a handful of Son House tracks to look for, so here we go. There are different versions of his songs ranging from the Grafton, Wisconsin recording sessions in 1930 and the Library of Congress field recordings (1941 and 1942) to live and studio recordings from his reemergence period, 1964-1970s. Though I'm tempted to reach for "American Defense" (1942) and such lyrics as "This war may last you for years," better to go for the 1965 studio* recordings, I think. In any case, Son House lyrically is often sly, sardonic and deeply strange; there are also wailing blues befitting both a preacher's jeremiads and a booze-infused bluesman. Snippets:

"Preachin' Blues" (alternate take):

Yayss I'm gonna get me religion
I'm going to join the Baptist Church . . .
Yeay I wanna be a Baptist preacher
Just so I don't have to work . . .

"Grinnin' in Your Face" is weird and eerie, somewhere between an apparition and a nightmare. From the alternate take:

Don't you mind people grinnin' in your face . . .
You know they grin in your face
They'll jump you up and down
Just as soon as your back is turned
They'll try to crush you down.

You know your mother will talk about you
Your sisters and your brothers, too
Don't care how you try to live
They'll talk about you still . . .

Yeah, just bear this in mind:
A good friend is hard to find.

(To be continued)

*The Father of the Delta Blues: The Complete 1965 Sessions.

Today's Rune: Movement.  

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