Son House, "Death Letter Blues" (Biograph/reissue on Library of Congress)
Son House is one of the touchstones of blues music. A mentor for both Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, he was also as dedicated a preacher as he was a blues singer. His struggle with this spiritual dichotomy permeates much of his music. He's riding the blinds in one song and declaring his intent to be a Baptist preacher (so he won't have to work) in the next. His passionate a cappella version of "John the Revelator" gives way to corn whisky and carousing. House's slashing slide work and grizzled wailing are enough to give you goose bumps. A great album to set the tone.
Tom Roznowski, "A Well Traveled Porch" (Syracuse Dreamer/BMI)
Tom R. is an American treasure, if you ask me. From his homespun twang to his lyrics warning of the dangers of stewed cucumbers and women with strange names, he's pure Americana. The songs on this album pinch and poke at your heartstrings and sense of humor with equal measures of dry wit and painful resignation. "My Old Man's Stuff," a tender vignette of sifting through his deceased father's belongings, will tear you up, while "Old Hound Dog" elevates man's best friend to mythic status. Check out Tom's Web site at www.tomroznowski.net and send him a few bucks for this album. You won't regret it.
Wild Billy Childish, "Crimes Against Music: blues recordings 1986-99" (Sympathy for the Record Industry)
A little something to liven up the party. Some spit in your eye and sand in the Vaseline. This compilation offers 27 tunes stripped bare and recorded in such vaunted studios as Childish's kitchen and a friend's bathroom. Many have appeared on other albums, but they hang together here as a treatise to his "elemental, bones beneath the bones" approach. A proud and inveterate amateur, Childish provides some down, dirty and refreshing music here. Pour a shot for everyone at the table, turn this on and bluff until you're broke. What the
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