Son House- Forever On My Mind review

Son House- Forever On My Mind Easy Eye Sound

Preacher, farm and factory worker, and founding father of modern blues: he was called Son House. A protegee and contemporary of Charley Patton, House’s life was filled with mistakes and questionable deeds. What remains undisputed was that House played and sang the blues like few others, reportedly influencing Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. Patton’s recordings from the 1930s and 1940s were not commercially successful, but their raw intensity is palatable and unforgettable once heard.

Retired from music and having lived and worked in Rochester, NY far from his Delta origins for two decades, House was rediscovered during the blues revival. His brand of blues was embraced by youthful college and festival audiences.

The eight songs released within Forever On My Mind were recorded live in 1964 and contains songs later recorded in the studio as well as one House didn’t commit to tape. The richness of the improvisation contained within the title track is just one of the many elements making this album a worthy purchase. Having had to relearn his repertoire in the weeks leading up to his re-emergence, House’s powerful, mournful voice and emotionally aggressive playing utilizing a National resonator on this album reveal no diminishing of his formidable skills; what might have been had he not walked away from performance in the early 40s?

“Death Letter” and “Louise McGhee” are two additional standout selections, but truly this generous set—culled from a former manager’s archives (and one of the youths who rediscovered House at his Rochester home) and released by the Black Keys Dan Auerbach’s label—is stunning and flawless. This is pure Delta blues, not blues rock, not jump, jive, or swing. We have here a man sharing his soul through songs both original and borrowed. It is raw, unadorned by niceties or flamboyance. By the time we encounter “Levee Camp Moan” concluding the set, we are further convinced that Son House didn’t hit his prime until age 62.

In the accompanying press material, Auerbach states, “[House] sounds like he’s in a trance, and his singing is so nuanced here. He’s very playful with his phrasing, just right on the money with his singing and playing. It sounds so right to me — top form Son House.”

I have to agree.

[Reviewed from download. And yes, this review is late as Forever On My Mind was released in March. I am finding it more difficult to write from downloads; the motivation isn’t there as when a CD or record arrives in the mail. But, I also understand the financial realities of the contemporary music world—PR budgets just don’t go as far as they once did, and I know the shipping rates from the US to Canada are seriously and stupidly inflated.]

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