“White Rabbit” (by Haunted House)
The blues has grown up a lot in the last ten years, since guitarist Andrew Burnes left New York for Georgia, bringing a de facto end to the powerful abstract blues of Haunted House. In the time since, a new generation — sometimes referred to as Freak Folk or New Weird America and spearheaded by Tom Carter*, Jack Rose and Ben Chasny — has followed in the footsteps of Loren Connors, John Fahey and a handful of others who have long maintained that the blues is something more than 12 bars and a backbeat.
After the demise of Haunted House, Connors continued preaching the gospel, often with his wife — the enigmatic singer Suzanne Langille — to anyone who would listen, playing a slow, distorted, reverb-drenched blues as slowly the world began to come around. Then, in the summer of 2010, the stars aligned just so: Burnes was in town for a few days, percussionist Neel Murgai was available, and the Brooklyn’s Issue Project Room was booking matinee concerts in their courtyard. The band had only existed for a brief two years and had been absent for a decade, but they picked up right where they left off with only a brief soundcheck as rehearsal. Another matter of months, and they were in the studio, recording at long last the follow-up to their 1999 Erstwhile release Up in Flames.
Looking back, maybe it isn’t that the blues has grown up. Maybe it has reverted to its youth. After all, John Lee Hooker, Son House and Mississippi Fred McDowell weren’t beholden to any 12-bar fixity. Nor was Lonnie Johnson, whose song “Haunted House” gave the band its name. They all played it how they felt it. It wasn’t until the 1960s and the British blues revival (its champion, ironically perhaps, being Connors’ beloved Eric Clapton) that the blues was codified into its current formula.
Haunted House is an unusual band. With Indian hand percussion and no bass, they don’t look like a blues band — and maybe they’re not. But they play it how they feel it. What more could you ask for?* Check Carter and Marc Orleans’ Northern Spy release Eleven Twenty-Nine.
White Rabbit by Haunted House is licensed under a Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.