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Dustin LindenSmith

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Son House

I first heard of Son House when I watched the recent documentary, It Might Get Loud, an excellent film featuring interviews and archival footage of Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White. Son House is Jack White's favourite musician ever, hands-down, period, and when you hear how beautiful this is, how much soul he has, it's not hard to understand why.



Jack White's cover of this same tune with White Stripes is also pretty awesome. A totally effective modernization of the tune which stays true to the original while still giving it a fresh, hard-edged take. I developed a newfound respect for Jack White's approach and his playing after watching that documentary, that's for sure.



On an unrelated note, this Howlin' Wolf tune also kicks the damn roof off:

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vyus January 12th, 2010
nice!

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jdquintette January 12th, 2010
I dunno man, that White Stripes stuff..

I just really don't see anything 'modern' in that treatment, it sounds exactly like a million hippies I heard back in the sixties playing 'electric' blues , 1967-era Fleetwood Mac (when it was still a blues band with Jeremy Spencer playing slide), Canned Heat, and zillions of unheralded people playing exactly like that all through the 60 and 70s. Right now there's tons of people doing the same schtick here in the south, people Like Papa Mali, who's been doing it for years. The North Mississippi Allstars. Guys play like this in bars all over town here in New Orleans. The only reason I can see for the White Stripes being such a big deal is the way they dress is appealing to the Art School crowd.

jdquintette January 12th, 2010
BTW, did the documentary say anything much about Son House? His story is very interesting, and sheds a lot of light on why his music is so intense.

Also, I saw Howlin Wolf live a couple of times and trust me, he's a LOT more intense in person. Scared the crap out of people. I've seen tamer stuff at Voodoo ceremonies.

iamom January 12th, 2010
Hah! That's totally cool.

Jack White spent at least 5 minutes in that doc expounding the virtues of Son House and his influence on his own musical sensibility. The doc itself didn't delve into Son House's own life history at all, though. A quick read of his wikipedia page sounds pretty interesting, though. Sort of a tragic tale of fading into obscurity in the middle part of his life, then maybe not recovering too successfully in his later years? Seems to have been a fairly seminal figure in the genre though, not that I'm any kind of expert on that genre...

jdquintette January 12th, 2010
The Wikipedia doesn't go into the areas I was referring to, which is the internal conflict within House between his secular and sacred self. I'm told by people who knew him that his long hiatus from the blues was because he absolutely felt his mortal soul was in danger, that incidents of a supernatural nature had occurred in his life which scared the hell out of him, and that he continued to suffer this conflict throughout his late-life 'comeback.' In this he ranks with other Janus-faced sacred/profane performers like Marvin Gaye and Jerry Lee Lewis. The internal life of these people is as far removed from that of a middle class white guy like Jack White as that of a Borneo tribesmans from William F. Buckley.:-) They're just a completely different breed of cat.

iamom January 13th, 2010
Wow, that sounds crazy. I can't really imagine being torn asunder by that sort of internal conflict with respect to music, of all things. It sounds so academic and abstract to me from a current-day standpoint. How interesting. I also didn't know that Marvin Gaye and Jerry Lee Lewis had similar internal struggles.

Certainly Jack White doesn't suffer from any of that, but he also grew up far differently than any of those guys. And while he's not necessarily an innovator in the same kind of sense, I still give him lots of props for paying dues with the tradition, being true to the tradition, and for playing honestly and for playing very well. Like I said in another thread, he's also introducing a bunch of young white kids to a kind of music they'd never have been exposed to otherwise, and unlike Elvis, he actually tries to school his audiences a bit about where the music he's playing comes from.

iamom January 12th, 2010
I hear you on the White Stripes, especially from where you live. Not much of their stuff could reasonably be considered new or innovative in the context of the authentic music you get in New Orleans.

I didn't much get the hype about White Stripes either, but when I watched that doc, I appreciated how seriously Jack White took the traditions and how much homage he was paying to them. You're hitting at some truth with the art school sensibility, too -- the White Stripes have introduced this kind of music to a whole crowd of young white kids who would never, ever have checked it out before. Not that they understand the context when they listen to those albums, but still... :)

Also, don't you think that there's a bit of a cultural disconnect between today's kids and what happened in the 60s and 70s, musically? It seems like the parents of today's kids haven't really schooled their offspring in that music, so there's a whole generation of music which is pretty much unknown to them. For example, for any kids in the 12-18 age group today, I can't find much common ground with them musically. The stuff they listen to is all new, and they have no historical context for any of it. Plus, so much of what's available commercially for kids today to listen to is such awful garbage, you know? It's hard for them to get exposed to real music these days if they're only plugged into the regular commercial music scene, such as it is now.

jdquintette January 12th, 2010
Also, don't you think that there's a bit of a cultural disconnect between today's kids and what happened in the 60s and 70s, musically?

Actually I'm of the schoolof thought that the 60s were vastly overrated in terms of cultural impact. If everybody who claimed to have been at Woodstock actually attended, it would have taken up four or five whole states, not just Yasgurs farm.

The truth is, most people in the 60s were not hippies, and were not part of the "youthquake" that got so much press. They didn't smoke pot (more people use marijuana now than ever did in the 60s) they didn't listen to counter culture music. For every one Abbie Hoffman, there were 20 George W. Bush fratboys listening to the Monkees and Paul Revere and the Raiders (much more successful bands than the Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service) getting drunk, and punching hippies on the weekend. Believe me, I was there. A few of them even tried punching
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<i>Also, don't you think that there's a bit of a cultural disconnect between today's kids and what happened in the 60s and 70s, musically?</i>

Actually I'm of the schoolof thought that the 60s were vastly overrated in terms of cultural impact. If everybody who claimed to have been at Woodstock actually attended, it would have taken up four or five whole states, not just Yasgurs farm.

The truth is, most people in the 60s were not hippies, and were not part of the "youthquake" that got so much press. They didn't smoke pot (more people use marijuana now than ever did in the 60s) they didn't listen to counter culture music. For every one Abbie Hoffman, there were 20 George W. Bush fratboys listening to the Monkees and Paul Revere and the Raiders (much more successful bands than the Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service) getting drunk, and punching hippies on the weekend. Believe me, I was there. A few of them even tried punching <i.me</i> which turned out to be a major tactical error on my part, because although I looked like a hippie I didn't think like one and at various times carried knives and pistols.

<i>For example, for any kids in the 12-18 age group today, I can't find much common ground with them musically. The stuff they listen to is all new, and they have no historical context for any of it. Plus, so much of what's available commercially for kids today to listen to is such awful garbage, you know? It's hard for them to get exposed to real music these days if they're only plugged into the regular commercial music scene, such as it is now.</i>

yow, just listen to yourself man. "Kids today, their music...it's just noise." I think if you can't find musical common ground with your kids, that's GOOD. They need their OWN music, music that pisses their parents off, like we had. There's nothing more depressing to me than the thought of parents and teenage kids all grooving to the White Stripes together. Adolescence is the time when you listen to stuff your parents HATE. Then later on you grow up and realize that they had a point after all.

The 'no historical context' thing IS a drag, but kids who are serious about music tend to pick that up over time. MOST people in the sixties didn't give a crap about 'context' either. The ones who did grew up to be rock critics who harp on about how cool the sixties were. The rest grew up to be dumbass middle Americans, just like always.

iamom January 13th, 2010
Man, you sound bitter! :)

And you can't lump me in with fuddy-duddy parents from the 50s and 60s, man. It's not just that present-day commercial music is different than what I'm used to or what I like, it's that I find it unoriginal, uninspired, untuneful, and unmusical. It doesn't challenge the listener harmonically or lyrically and it doesn't give the listener anything substantial to sink their ears into. It's just crap.

Okay, maybe I do sound a bit like an old man. But in my heart of hearts, I know I'm not. And in my back pocket, I have the pride of when my three-year-old son comes into the kitchen and asks me to put on some funky music so we can dance, and unless it has a truly funky, driving beat and a really good bassline, he rejects it out of hand. (Granted, he may not ask me to do this when he's 12 or 15, but I'm enjoying it while I can.)

dizziedumb January 13th, 2010
i love me some son house! another great song of his is "john the revelator."

i'm just going to come out and say that i like the white stripes; i think they do effectively integrate the delta blues with contemporary crunch and squeal.

iamom January 13th, 2010
I agree, babe. I also think it's an effective integration. And Jack White the person is also fuckin' cool.

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