Son House, Charley Patton & Robert Johnson

Son House was born in 1902 in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
At the end of the 1920’s after he had served time on Parchman Farm for killing a man,  and inspired by Willie Wilson and Blind Lemon Jefferson he bought a guitar and played alongside blues legends Charley Patton and Robert Johnson. He was there at the beginning – he spent the first half of his life in the Steam Age and the later half working on the New York Central Rail line – it’s no surprise that he sounds like a ghost train driven by the devil from the muddy depths of the earth.

Supernatural Blues Guitar

The notorious and legendary pre war blues players Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson exert a mythological and almost supernatural influence upon the blues fuelled not only by their innovative music but also by their untimely deaths. Both died young in mysterious circumstances, allegedly poisoned by jealous husbands, although Blind Lemon likely died, lost, in a snowstorm and froze to death. Johnson was only 27 and Blind Lemon only 36.

When it comes to the pre-war Delta blues House was definitely the real deal, but, he actually made it out alive and he lived to the end of the 1980’s. House experienced a musical renaissance in the 1960’s that gifted posterity many new recordings and footage of his uniqueand revelatory blues style.

 

Unique Blues Guitar Style

Where Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon play with a certain complexity and efficacy Son House’s sound is a characteristically raw,  steam driven, highly rhythmic, and earthy blues – it isn’t refined and it isn’t meant to be. House delivers his message with an elemental fervour; his guitar pounds and his slide wails – his blues has a highly emotional focus, an impassioned simplicity flavoured with a haunting and gothic atmosphere of apocalyptic doom.

 

Crossroads Blues

His early experience as a baptist preacher bleeds through and informs his vocals empowering them with an incantatory, mesmeric resonance that borders on Native American shamanism: he tends to focus upon themes of desolation, loss, isolation and spiritual retribution. His lyrics occupy a position of such emotional lucidity and trail blazing acuity that much of what followed after him could be viewed as incomplete, secondhand,  gestural cliches. It was House who, speaking to awe-struck young blues fans in the 1960s, spread the legend that Johnson had sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads in exchange for his musical powers.

 

The Resonator Slide guitar Blues Sound

If you really like the raw sounds of Son House’ blues then a resonator, or resophonic guitar, is a natural requirement to reproduce the classic and distinctive sounds heard on his recordings. Click this link to discover how to choose a resonator guitar.