Son House: Live at the Gaslight Cafe NYC

Son House: Live at the Gaslight Cafe NYC
Title: Live at the Gaslight Cafe NYC
Label: Document

Son House's rediscovery in 1964 led to some interesting sessions for Columbia Records, and a handful of live recordings from his time on the folk and blues coffee house circuit have surfaced. Despite his age, he was still capable of generating a facsimile of the old roar from his Paramount recordings, on occasion, as this set recorded at Gaslight Café in New York in 1965 shows. The versions here of "Empire State Express" and "Death Letter Blues" are startling in their intensity. Like you don't want to be caught by a Baptist preacher trying to sneak out on the sermon, it's nearly impossible not to listen to this set clear through, once it begins. It feels like an important bit of living history, and behind every tortured, exhausted note you can almost hear the ghost of Son House in his fiery prime. This album probably preserves Son House s New York debut, a little less than six months after he'd been located in Rochester, NY. In 1965, even for those dedicated enthusiasts who knew Son's early recordings, the coffee house engagement that this album preserves must have been an utterly remarkable experience. Even now, shorn of the visual element, and without the excitement of witnessing history come unexpectedly to life, it's still pretty astonishing listening. Some of the guitar accompanied spirituals start out a little tentatively, perhaps reflecting House's lifelong unease about the claims of religion on him, but he soon gets into them, and the blues songs are mostly done with the single-minded commitment. Through sheer emotional intensity he transports himself and his listeners back in time to a juke-joint in the Mississippi Delta,' but that's a romantic avoidance of the gulf between Son House's life experiences and those of his new audience. Nevertheless, when Son House is singing and playing on this kind of form, there is nothing else whatever that merits your attention, for however long the song lasts. We are so fortunate that this album is available.

1.1 Pony Blues
1.2 Motherless Children
1.3 Preachin' the Blues
1.4 This Little Light of Mine
1.5 Son's Blues
1.6 Death Letter Blues
1.7 I Shall Not Be Moved
1.8 Levee Camp Moan
1.9 Empire State Express
1.10 Pearline
1.11 Yonder Comes My Mother (When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder)
1.12 Louise McGhee

Son House: Live at the Gaslight Cafe NYC

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