There were blues guitarists before him – such as Charley Patton – and perhaps better blues guitarists that followed him, but there were few as soulful, deep, and downright bonechilling as Eddie “Son” House. A failed preacher tormented by the devil’s blues, House was the inspiration behind Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and countless others. “I’m just an old ordinary blues player,” he once said, yet as Muddy Waters invoked, “Son House was the greatest of all. “
Sadly, House’s recorded output is slim and uneven. Arguably his best and most pure sides were those recorded for the Paramount label from 1928 to 1930, followed by the series for folklorist Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress in the early ’40s. His 1965 Columbia session – cut after his “rediscovery”- was also strong.
The two-CD Revisited set re-releases two concerts by House from 1965 at Ohio’s Oberlin College and the Gaslight Cafe in New York City. Both have previously been issued on LP and CD, but this collection features more complete versions with improved sound.
At both shows, House roars through his repertoire with his gravelly voice signifying the blues and his slide guitar howling in unison. Some of the songs are a tad bit rough-edged and the elderly House falters at moments, but these are still deep blues as few others have ever played them. And the most fascinating moments in the concerts may not be the blues, but House’s religious ramblings, monologues displaying his torments and intensity as strongly as his music.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Oct. ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.