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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 27 August 2006
When the Mississippi blues giant, Eddie 'Son' House was rediscovered in 1964 he was 62 years old and had given up music some 16 years previously. Practice soon restored much of his original mastery and he was signed up the following year by John Hammond for a Columbia Records session. The LP that emerged comprised the first nine of these tracks, and represented a powerful come-back, with stand-out numbers 'Death Letter', 'Empire State Express', and 'Levee Camp Moan', as well as the unaccompanied 'John The Revelator'.

In 1992 a double CD was released, with the original nine tracks supplemented by an additional seven unreleased titles as well as five alternate takes. But what should have been an occasion for celebration turned out to be disappointing in the extreme. The new material was a pale shadow of that previously issued, and many critics thought it would have been better left in the vaults.

The present single CD includes just five of the originally unreleased titles, and so offers some kind of compromise, with the worst of the 'new' material being omitted. Of that retained, perhaps 'Pony Blues' disappoints the most. The delivery is extremely hesitant and stumbling, in direct contrast to Son's superb 1942 recording of this classic that he learned from his old friend Charley Patton. 'Motherless Children' suffers in the same way, and Son coughs and wheezes his way through a depressing version of 'Downhearted Blues'. Only 'President Kennedy', to the same melody as his 1942 'American Defense', and 'Yonder Comes My Mother' with, presumably, the added guitar of Al Wilson, in any way compare with the quality and power of the first nine tracks which more than justify the purchase of this mid-price CD.
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on 13 December 2011
This CD is actually an extended remaster of the "Death Letter" CD, with five bonus tracks from the same recording session tagged onto the end. Although in modern times it's come to be considered an abridged version of the "Father of Delta Blues" double CD

With that in mind it's worth briefly mentioning the mastering of this disc. I don't know if Columbia used some manner of digital processing or different source tapes, but this CD sounds to my ears slightly muffled and less alive than the same material from the earlier "Death Letter" CD on Edsel.

So how about the music? Recorded during a professional studio session in 1965, the bulk of the album is just Son House and his acoustic guitar, although on a couple of tracks he is joined by a second guitarist or harmonica player.

Now, a common complaint with the material from these 1965 sessions is that it fails to showcase Son House in his prime, thus it is somehow a failure. The problem with that argument is that it neglects completely to view the album on its own merits. To compare this against work recorded by the same man over 30 years earlier is neither an equal nor fair comparison. If we were to routinely judge the quality of a musicians' output against their early efforts and by default consider worthless anything that didn't have the same fire, passion or ferocity of youth, we'd be depriving ourselves of thousands upon thousands of hours of excellent music from all genres.

As it stands, this is one hell of a comeback album. Doubly-so when one considers House hadn't performed for a number of decades, or picked up a guitar for 15 years, prior to these sessions. By the time the 1960's arrived he had long ceased to be a musician. It was until he was tracked down by some young fans in 1964 that he realised there was still an interest in his music, and the following year entered the studio to record these tracks. And even by the time he reached the studio he needed to be reminded of some of the chord sequences of the songs.

So bearing that in mind, this album is an impressive achievement. Whereas his recordings from the 1930's were hallmarked by a preacher-like vigour and passion, these recordings from 1965 find House's age working in his favour by bringing a new gravitas to proceedings. Here his voice is one of weather-worn experience. His guitar technique may lack the rapid fluidity if his younger self, but here it has a raw character of sound. It doesn't matter if he stumbles on occasion, it simply adds to the authenticity.

To the naysayers who claim House's age during these recordings worked as a barrier to his talent, I would argue his age simply pushes his talent into a new direction, one far more raw, intimate and personal. When you listen to this album it's as he's in the room with you, giving you his full attention whilst telling you his life story through the medium of lyrics and chord sequences and guitar licks. You don't get that with his material from the 1930s. It's not a case of being better or worse, it's simply a case of being different.

The only complaint I have regarding the music is with the bonus additions to the original running order of the 1965 album, some of which are more morose in feel than the preceding tracks, thus bring proceedings to a close with a bit of a downwards slump.

But don't let the latter put you off. This is an essential CD for anyone with an interest in acoustic or Delta Blues. So ignoring the bonus tracks I'll rate it a solid 3 stars. My 5 star rating for this material goes to the superior sounding "Death Letter" CD.
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on 13 December 2000
Son House - the true founder of the Delta Blues and Robert Johnson's mentor. This album is from 1965, after his "rediscovery" by white folk fans, but his powers are as awesome as ever. The material is of variable quality, but the a capella versions of "John the Revelator" and "Grinnin' in Your Face" are effective in their starkness, and the opening track, "Death Letter Blues", is one of the most emotionally charged blues recordings of all time. House was not the greatest guitarist ever, but with this power it hardly matters. If you want to know why Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil, this is the place to go. "The Original Delta Blues", all right - it doesn't get any more real than this.
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on 19 October 2012
What is not immediately clear about this disc, is that this is actually a re-release of a Son House album with the tracks in their original running order and five outtakes from those sessions. The album was released in 1965 as Death Letter in the UK and as The Legendary Son House: Father of the Folk Blues in the US. Released as a companion to the Father of Delta Blues double CD which covers all the sessions for that album, this makes it a bargain for those of us who are interested in albums of classic blues, but don't necessarily want to shell out for complete boxsets.

I was able to puzzle all this out with the aid of reviewer XBBX (my thanks to them), whose review of the Death Letter CD explains the release's history. Unfortunately, I only knew of this album by it's american title (courtesy of Jack White's interview on the It Might Get Loud film) so I thought it might be worth explaining this here in case anyone else was in the same situation. This is a great purchase, so it's a shame that it's so hard figure out what you're getting.

The album itself is excellent and it only takes a couple listens to see why it is so highly thought of. It's raw and edgy, without studio gloss, but also without the artefacts that are typical of old blues recordings. Just Son House and his guitar, with occasional assistance from Al Wilson of Canned Heat. This is a hard, spare performance that sounds almost live, except for the quality of the sound.

Here, I must respectfully disagree with Mr Callick, who gave this disc one star. This album makes its rough beat and slashing guitar fills work and the lyrics speak to real-life experiences, not just a round of bluesman stereotypes. Grinning in Your Face, stripped back to nothing but vocals and handclaps, warns us to expect criticism no matter how hard we try to do the right thing. Preachin' Blues highlights the dangers of hypocrisy, while Empire State Express and Death Letter express pure heartbreak. These songs reflect a mature outlook on some hard aspects of life and if they are raw and emotive it is not just for the sake of stylistic expectations. Other recordings might showcase more impressive guitar chops, but this album's emotional impact demands attention.
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on 7 August 2013
This is where it all started. They say that Rock is a marriage between the blues and celtic folk. Well folks, if this is true then Son House is the grandpapa of rock.Hendrix meet your originator
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on 20 May 2014
Great CD, I just love this music listen to it all the time, I would recommend this record as I am sure it would give you as much pleasure as get from it.
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on 18 July 2014
Great slide guitar although his voice is very strident, this maybe sue an early recording,however still worth being in your collection.
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on 17 August 2013
I love old school blues - and this is definitely old school blues. Just buy it and listen. You will not be disappointed.
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on 25 January 2009
Son House was re-discovered in 1965 at the tail end of his life after apparently not performing for many years.Time did not deminish his obvious talent for performing The Delta Blues. It is just Himself,His Voice, His Harmonica and his stunning Accoustic Slide Guitar.It is in my view, PURE BRILLIANCE - AND I LOVE IT.
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on 18 March 2008
The release of these 1965 recordings of Son House seems now even sadder, listening forty years on. His technique all shot to pieces, the voice is all that's left, raw and charged-up. Even the best thing on here, his famously raw version of John the Revelator, is a clumsy parody of the much-circulated classic 1928 take by Blind Willie Johnson and his wife. By the mid-1960s, the white-boy audience condescendingly wanted their black bluesmen raw and emotive. What was lost sight of was how formidably accomplished, varied and interested in technique the earlier generations of black blues players had been, an immeasurably richer field of skills and playing. I feel they would've been embarassed to hear the recordings on this CD. No wonder that serious, young black musicians in the 1960s largely turned away from playing blues.
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