Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Album Review: Son House - Forever On My Mind

Son House
Forever On My Mind
**** out of *****

Son House had the career trajectory (unfortunately) of quite a few bluesman of his generation. He played and recorded in his youth, the music fell out of favor and he left the business, then was rediscovered later in life and found critical and sometimes semi-commercial fame from predominantly white audiences as a "folk-blues" singer.  

Son House had a "comeback" album of sorts in 1965 with Father of Folk Blues, the recordings on the newly released Forever On My Mind happened before that release in 1964 as House was getting his chops back. The tapes were made by his manager at the time Dick Waterman and have been waiting for the right time to be released. Dan Auerbach's Easy Eye Sound has put this collection out now with the title track being unreleased and other standard House songs arriving in vastly different forms.

The title track opener is the first time fans get to hear this song from House and it is an intimate performance of great sounding strumming, strong singing which gets silly at times as House is clearly in his element. The humor, and corn liquor seems to be flowing as House delivers "Preacher Blues" with lines like "Gonna get me religion/Gonna join the Baptist church/Want to be a Baptist preacher/So I don't have to work". 

This rambling blues tune shows off a softer side of House who is known for the haunting "Death Letter" which is presented here in a more reserved, introspective fashion; it is as if House is feeling out what the song means during this performance and is never quite sure of the elusive track. 

"Empire State Express" finds House's strong guitar taking on train sounds as it starts to steam, but there are some vocal flubs and the track ends abruptly. That practice feel is throughout the album and while that doesn't take away from the overall effort, there are moments, such as the rough singing on "The Way Mother Did" where the artists isn't at his strongest. 

The most polished effort is "Louis McGhee" which is a slow affair of love sick blues with affecting vocals and picking. The closer "Levee Camp Moan" is a bit ragged, but these are minor squabbles as Son House is such a major figure in the blues that Forever On My Mind is a must have for blues fans and a joy to hear.        
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video:

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