SON HOUSE / “Who’s That Singing?”
One Saturday evening Robert and a bunch others play for a picnic. One of the others was a visiting musician name of Son House, who some people say had just come out of Parchman behind shooting some man to death at a house party down near Lyon, Mississippi in 1928 but come out in less than two years when he got some judge down in Clarksdale to review his case, which go to prove it must’ve been self-defense and not no murder. Anyway, the function was being advertised as a special, end-of-the-season function. Peoples came from far as Memphis to hear what they call “The last cotton picking.” Harvest was all done. And folk took a week of rest, culminating in this big picnic.It was the best-est time Ginny ever had. Ever. They was gaming and funning and stuff. And all kinds of food, and special food too, not no every day food. Pies and cakes, and roasted pig with farmer Brown’s secret sauce, and everything. And the last of the watermelon. And even some sweet sugar cane brought up from way, way Louisiana south. Oh, it felt so good to be alive and laughing with folk, and children running around, and mens chunking horse shoes, and womens circling and quilting for Sarah, who was expecting—some kind of way the heifer had got herself in a family way long before Ginny did even though she weren’t hitched to nobody and Ginny was Mrs. Robert Johnson, but still it was nice, and still, since now Sarah weren’t no longer no kind of competition, Ginny even lent a hand stitching on the blue and yellow and white quilt what had stars and crescent moons patterned all over it. And, lord, when the music started up and all the dancing, oh lord. And Robert he was playing harp on account of farmer Brown and Mr. Son House was guitar playing. And when Mr. House started up, well, Ginny could see what Robert meant when he said how powerful Son House was. That man took to sweating music. She never seen nobody outside the church catch no spirit like Mr. House. Look like his eyes roll up all white and all, and his voice got raspy and wailing like he was a haint or something. And look like that sound was jumping out the side of his neck, through his bulging veins. Through his fingers. His trembling lips. The way he moan, he hoop. You could hear his voice all up the road and cross the hollow. But he weren’t just loud. He was powerful. And once he got going he was mighty, mighty strong winded. Plus, his guitar playing was so expert, sound sharp like hammer driving. Even fifty feet away you could hear every note on that steel body guitar he play with. He strummed that guitar like he was plowing with one of them new-fangled tractor machines, hit it with authority. And his songs was about everything. Ginny really liked when Mr. House did that song about scriptures. Who’s that’s writing? John the revelator! Who’s that writing? John the revelator! Talking about he wrote the book of the seven seals. And when he done “John The Revelator,” Mr. House, he just use his voice. No guitar. No shakers or knockers or nothing. No fiddles. No nothing but his voice and his two huge hands clapping together. And he growl from deep in his stomach. In fact, when he growled like that it sort of affected Ginny a little something like the way Robert’s music touch her. And that surprised Ginny, to feel herself responding to some other man like she was. But she comfort herself in noticing that she weren’t the onliest one touched by Mr. House, cause it look like everybody had stopped whatever else they was doing to draw close-close to Mr. House, and everybody was lining out “John The Revelator.” So Ginny guessed it wasn’t so bad to be moved when everybody else was being moved too, and wouldn’t nobody look askance at her for being moved by Mr. House. Ginny hoped that Robert wouldn’t be mad at her for liking Mr. House music so much, and singing, even though she really couldn’t sing, but singing out none the less just like as if she could sing good. She reckoned Robert would accept her singing to Mr. House’s music. She hoped so. Even at one point looked over at Robert with his harmonica in hand, standing behind Mr. House, responding right along with the crowd. Suddenly, like as if somebody come up behind her and covered her eyes and said “Guess who,” suddenly Ginny realized that she never sang along to Robert’s music cause when it was just him and her there wasn’t no reason for her to sing along and the few times she was with him playing for some peoples she had been so busy paying attention to what womens was paying attention to Robert she had never much paid attention to singing along with Robert. Ginny wondered did Robert want her to sing along. Ginny wondered about that as she sang along with Mr. House, and it made her feel good to sing to Mr. House’s music. But this all was peculiar. Robert, for his part, wasn’t studying nobody or nothing except Son House and how he was holding the crowd like a baby chick cupped in his two hands. That’s the kind of power Robert wanted to have—he wanted everybody who heard his music to respond to it, to be touched by it. Robert wanted his music to mean something to everybody. Everybody. Those were sweet days. Studying Son House. Loving Ginny . What could be better.
This entry was posted on Monday, June 21st, 2010 at 3:11 am and is filed under Classic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
One Response to “SON HOUSE / “Who’s That Singing?””
Leave a Reply
| top |