Glenn Highway Blues
Son Henry plays a with an acute feel for the rhythms and anger of the delta, in turns subtle and ferocious, hollering and stomping in time with the eerie call of the bottleneck (Eric Scott, Blues Matters Magazine) In a world obsessed with the next big thing, it's quite surprising to meet a man that's so deeply rooted in the music if the middle of the previous century. Son Henry is, quite simply, a musician that lives and breathes the blues. However, that comes as no surprise to the legions of faithful. They know to turn out in all kinds of weather so they can be close to the fire generated every time this man picks up a guitar. In Alaska where the bars sometimes never close, he's been know to hold an audience until the sun-lit hours of the next morning when they really should be at home getting dressed for work. He's made a startling range of styles his own, from deep soulful delta blues to loping Texas Shuffles and all points in between. Original tunes that sound like they were written in decades past. But be warned- it's when the lap steel guitar comes out that you need to stand back. There are probably three lap steel blues guitarists that people know- Freddy Roulette, Sonny Rhodes and the late Hop Wilson. It's an instrument originally intended for Hawaiian music that later found a home in early Western Swing Bands. It's not generally considered to be a blues instrument, but if you put it into his hands then sparks begin to fly. He began playing lap steel guitar as a kid, mostly as a party trick by simply laying a Stratocaster across his lap and playing with a bar glass for a slide. As he delved deeper into the earlier blues, it was a chance discovery of an old record by Houston-based guitarist Hop Wilson that sent him off to study the instrument more seriously. He acquired his first lap steel guitar, an ancient Epiphone, to settle a long-standing poker debt and began dragging it to gigs. In early 1999 at a gig at Anchorage's Blues Central a man staggered out of the crowd and approached Son after a late night gig. 'Son', he said pointing to the old Epiphone, 'I love listening to you play, but that guitar is a piece of crap. I've got a good steel guitar at my mothers house in Chicago. If you'll play it instead of that thing it's yours'. Drunks in bars have been known to make all kinds of crazy promises and Son was polite but unconvinced. 'Sure', Son replied, 'of course I would', never expecting to see him again. Three weeks later a box was waiting on that very same stage. Inside was a 1940's Supro lap steel in showroom condition, and a note that read 'Someday return the favor to someone else'. Later that night, after a blistering 2-hour set on fresh strings Son declared the old Epiphone to be permanently retired. To this day he has no idea who gave him the guitar, but you will see that old Supro on the stage. But before you think of him as a one-trick pony, he's also a major talent on several other instruments including blues harp, pedal steel, electric and acoustic slide guitars. So where does this leave us? You could read all about his childhood I suppose. We could ramble on about the influences of Magic Sam and Muddy Waters, or list the countless gigs he's played all over the world. It's all for nothing, though. What you need to do next is go find the man practicing the craft he knows and loves- bring the blues to a crowd of the dancing faithful.