Son first recorded three tunes for Paramount in Grafton Wisconsin in 1930; My Black Mama (1 & 2), Preachin' The Blues (1 & 2), Dry Spell Blues (1 & 2) as well as an unreleased version of Walking Blues . His good friend Willie Brown traveled to Grafton with him and recorded Future Blues at this same session. Lyrically and musically they were masterpieces.
The Paramount records didn't do well (as a result they are some of the rarest Blues 78s) and Son didn't record again until August of 1941, when Alan Lomax made some field recordings of Son and Willie with a small string band. They recorded again for Lomax in July of '42. Ensemble pieces like Levee Camp Blues and Government Fleet Blues offer a glimpse of Son and Willie together.Solo performances like Shetland Pony Blues (hear the train in the background?) and The Jinx Blues (1&2) from these sessions are among Son's best. There's a lot to learn her, musically and otherwise. Fo'Clock Blues is reminscent of Tommy Johnson's Cool Drink of Water , the first words of Camp Hollers hint at where Howlin' Wolf might have got Killing Floor from.
Son moved up North to Rochester , N.Y. in 1943 and worked various jobs until he was tracked down by blues afficianodos Dick Waterman, Nick Perls and Phil Spiro.After the death of his partner Willie Brown , Son had given up the guitar altogether and left the blues life behind. Tutored by Al Wilson (of Canned Heat), Son was back and resumed playing professionally. There are at least two videos of Son available from this period. On the one I have seen, he is clearly uncomfortable,on a hokey stage with a barrel for a prop, but when he starts singing John the Revelator his power and dignity are evident. In 1965 he recorded for Columbia. While not as good as his earlier stuff, there are some powerful performances here. I remember hearing Death Letter Blues, Preachin' Blues and Grinnin' In Your Face for the first time, it was almost eerie. You can hear in all of Son's work, an incredible depth of emotion.
Son played various National single cones ( Duolians and Style "O"s), playing slide with a piece of copper tube(?) on his third finger in "Spanish"(Open G - DGDGBD) tuning. By using his third finger ,Son was able to damp behind the slide and use his pinky for fretting. The copper tube adds a gritty sound, which works great with a Duolian, Steel bodied "O" (or a new Delphi). Son's lyrics reflect the stark life he lead. This is the Delta Blues.
Modern Son House disciple John Mooney has combined Son's Delta style with power trio Rock and New Orleans R&B to carry Son's tradition into the 21st Century..
To find the music of Son House . . .