SON HOUSE IN SEATTLE 1968 (2CD)
Disc One - Death Letter Blues, Government Fleet Blues, Empire State Express, I Want To Live So God Can Use Me, Preachin' Blues, Louise McGhee. Tracks are linked by Son House's introductions, explanations, thoughts and memories
Disc Two - Original pre-war recordings. Son House: My Black Mama part 1, Louise Johnson: All Night Long, Charley Patton: Mississippi Bo Weavil Blues, Willie Brown: M&O Blues, Rube Lacey: Ham Hound Crave, Robert Johnson: Terraplane Blues, Son House: My Black Mama part 2. All tracks are interspersed with an interview (made for a radio programme) with Son House.
I can't imagine any true blues fan not wanting to get his or her hands on every piece of Son House music so this set should find its way into thousands of collections.
You can take disc one as an historical document containing, as it does, spoken reminiscences, insights and fascinating stories told by Son House himself in 1968 but it's also a live in the flesh concert by one of the most loved bluesmen who ever walked this earth playing strong guitar full of heavy strumming, snapped strings and hard runs while he sings his heart out with a voice that is just as spell binding as it ever was.
Producer Bob West intersperses the songs with Son telling self-deprecating stories, poking fun at himself and his tough times but as soon as the talks finish and the songs begin the mood turns serious and he goes into himself pouring every drop of emotion into performances that can, at times, be almost overwhelming. As his old manager Dick Waterman says in the introductory notes "he was a man who did not just sing blues songs, he lived within them".
Disc two is made up of tracks by his friends and contemporaries during the thirties all linked together with lucid and informative interviews made for radio by Son House. It could be argued that there is a little too much spoken word, as some of his introductions last for four or five minutes and even eight and a half in one case, but it's Son House speaking here for God's sake!
Throughout the set his music and words are as startling and passionate as anything he ever did and I, for one, will treasure these CDs.
Review Date: August 2011