Monday, May 27, 2013
Love & Theft in the Blues Tradition
Son House, Robert Johnson
and Muddy Waters
Nothing comes out of nowhere.
This 1941 recording for Lomax's project is almost a medley of the best of Son House. It includes couplets from My Black Mama Blues (Death Letter) and a few other tunes. Support from his good friend (and RJ's, who name checks him in Cross Road Blues) Willie Brown on guitar. Joe Martin and Leroy Williams on fiddle and harp.
This song has most of House's affectations, the moanin' and howlin', the jivin'. It's a little light on his trademark slide riff that is the heart and soul of Death Letter, but it's there.
Now Son moved around and he likely scored some of these couplets along the way. That's alright, mama, 'cause we're looking at where these went, not where they came from.
Robert Johnson paid homage to Son House in this cover of Walkin' Blues where RJ shows his ability to mimic, or interpret, what he heard around him. This is knee-slapping good. Robert nails the diction, the guitar riffs, it's unbelievable. This version is pretty well a straight cover of House's June 1930 Grafton recording for Paramount (the Charlie Patton sessions). Robert wasn't around to hear the more developed '41 version.
Muddy Waters was right there, near Robinsonville at the Stovall Plantation when House was King of this Part of the Delta.
Here's his not too subtle homage. The song is called Country Blues but I think you'll recognize the sound, the melody and most lyrics. He also has that riff down cold.
Now here's House sounding a little more like himself. 1930 version of My Black Mama, which became Death Letter Blues in the '60's.