Son House

Son House With Bukka White

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Slide guitar has always been at the heart of the blues, and this hour-long compilation brings us performance footage of two men who were at the beginnings of it all, Son House and Bukka White. This debut volume in Yazoo's Master of the Country Blues video series is introduced by Taj Mahal, who gives us a brief, but informative, biography on both artists. As a seminal influence on both Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, Son House's place in blues history is well assured, but sadly, many of his rediscovery performances from the mid- to late 1960s find him -- at times -- in less than stellar form. But the performances collected here (transferred from kinescopes made by the Seattle Folk Society) capture him in fine shape, sliding and beating his steel-bodied National guitar and hollering the blues with the passion of ten men. Opening with a strong version of his "Death Letter Blues," ahe sings an a cappella gospel number next, "John the Revelator." This follows a long, rambling discourse on his religious beliefs that extends into the next number, "Preachin' the Blues." The religious theme is extended into another sanctified a cappella number, "I Want to Live So God Can Use Me," which closes out his portion. Bukka White, in more sepia toned footage, kicks off with a rousing "New Aberdeen Blues," showing off showboating guitar tricks galore and strong slide playing. "Mama Don't Allow Me," a loose collection of stock blues verses set to another stellar example of Bukka's slide playing, sets the stage for the real surprise of the set, Bukka playing boogie-woogie piano. Seated behind a small spinet, Bukka hammers out a two-fisted boogie long on energy and short on subtleties as he inserts another batch of stock verses into the mix. He goes back to his National steel body for three more songs, including a jumping boogie that sports a nasty repeated slide riff every bit as down-home as it gets. Thanks to a grant for the National Endowment of the Arts, this footage was rescued and transferred for future generations to enjoy.