Son House

The Shrine of Dig represents music that has made indelible impressions on our lives, both musically and personally. We plan to enshrine works and artists that stand out for any number of special reasons, from those glorious moments we first heard something captivating and new, through the continuous impacts of the music upon our lives. The induction ceremony involves multiple posts where we will both explore and pay tribute to the words and sounds which have been so important to us. In doing so, we share with you some music we believe is damn near infallible and absolutely worth listening to. View all

Son House (1902-1988) has long been one of my favorite blues singers. The sound from his voice and hands is implacable, his lyrics are uncomplicated, straight forward, heart breaking, and stern. Concurrently, his personal life was a magnificent conglomerate of widely different vocations and circumstances.

His biography in a nutshell

Eddie James "Son" House was born in Mississippi and began his life enamored with the idea of being a preacher for the Baptist church; a goal he had achieved by the tender age of fifteen. Meanwhile, he would grow to love blues music and despite the sinful tendencies that surrounded this world he was performing by his mid twenties. In 1927 he committed murder in an alleged act of self defense after being shot in the leg during a performance. Nevertheless, this act earned him a cool fifteen years on the Parchman Farm in Mississippi. Subsequently, he recorded for Paramount Records as well as Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress. After his stint in the Mississippi State Penitentiary he took work laying railroad tracks and forgot about his life as a performer. The world did not forget about him however and in the mid sixties he was re-discovered and brought back to the stage. He was a prominent performer in the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and can be seen there in the documentary "Festival".

The thing I like most about the music of Son House is that it requires nothing other than your attention. Son did not need to be amplified, or accompanied. He did not require set or costume changes. His music was not visually motivated or tied up in the style of a passing scene. Son House could be riveting, honest, musical, and moving with his voice and conviction alone. 

Son House: Grinnin In Your Face

The attached video interview features Son House discussing the Blues and what was starting to become of it as it was co-opted by rock and roll, electric guitars, and musicians who perform without authenticity or credibility. Although he does not call anyone in particular out, he does not mix words either.

The subsequent video is a performance of his classic, Death Letter Blues. I have always loved this song for Son's unabashed, bold, and immediate lyrical content. "I got a letter this morning, how'd you reckon it read? It said hurry hurry cause the gal you love it dead." It really doesn't get more plain or expeditious than this. Later he sings my all time favorite blues line ever with the heartbreaking lyric, "Looked like it was 10,000 people standin' around the buryin' ground. I didn't know I loved her, 'til they let her down."

Son House: Death Letter Blues

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