Charlie Patton, Charley Patton Vol. 2 (1929)

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Nobody looms larger in Delta blues than Patton, the first man — at least on record — to develop many of the music's guitar licks and rhythmic and lyric patterns. He was a more extreme version of Tommy Johnson, and he was the music's first real star — not a rambling street singer, but a no-holds-barred showman hired to play before adoring crowds. Patton had a deep, ferociously rough voice and thwacked a raw, insistent big-beat guitar; he also popularized slide guitar in Mississippi, using it to finish his vocal lines (as on "A Spoonful Blues"). His instrumental and vocal outpourings were both remembered as being unusually LOUD; not coincidentally, "Screamin 'and Hollerin 'the Blues" was one of his most popular songs. Though he sang about men and women as often as the next bluesman, some of his calling-card songs — "Pony Blues," "High Sheriff Blues," "High Water Everywhere" — were topical, almost journalistic in their details.