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Screamin' & Hollerin' The Blues

 The Worlds Of Charley Patton

Revenant 212                $159.98

7 CDs, 122 tracks, 7 hours 2 mins, essential

Incredible seven CD set of Mississippi Delta blues with the central focus being the great Delta blues pioneer Charley Patton.

Patton was a unique singer with a rough, ferocious voice that was still capable of great subtlety. His guitar playing was incomparable - intensely rhythmic with use of string snapping and other percussive effects, he also sometimes used slide to great effect. His playing is full of imaginative nuances that never cease to amaze one. Some of the tracks feature the fiery fiddling of Henry Sims or the guitar of Willie Brown - the bond between Patton & Brown's playing is positively psychic. His music and that of his associates like Son House and Willie Brown was to provide the impetus for later generations of Delta bluesmen like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf.

The first five CDs feature in session order all the issued and unissued recordings by Patton and his session mates Son House, Willie Brown, Louise Johnson (wonderful singer and piano player with spoken comments from Son House and Willie Brown), Henry "Son Sims, Bertha Lee (Patton's wife with Patton on guitar) , The Delta Big Four (superb gospel quartet), Buddy Boy Hawkins, Edith North Johnson (fine singer and possibly piano player) and even a spoken word piece from talent scout H.C. Speir reading and commenting on news headlines from 1930 .

The sixth CD features tracks by artists in Patton's "orbit - artists whose music may have inspired Patton or been inspired by Patton - Ma Rainey, Walter Rhodes, Furry Lewis, Rube Lacey, Tommy Johnson, William Harris, Kid Bailey, Blind Joe Reynolds (one side of recently discovered 78 rpm -and truly superb), Mississippi Sheiks, Charley Jordan, Blind Pete & George Ryan, Big Joe Williams, Willie Lofton Trio, Unknown Convict (incredible performance cut for Library of Congress in 1936), Bukka White, Willie Brown, Son House, Howlin' Wolf and Roebuck "Pop Staples & The Staple Singers.

The 7th CD features interviews with people who knew Patton like Pop Staples, Howlin' Wolf, H.C. Speir and Patton protégé Booker Miller.

Click here for complete track listing.

All tracks have been newly remastered and pitch corrected from best possible copies for the finest sound ever and are a real revelation. Charley's best recordings were made for Paramount with poor quality recordings and appalling pressings and in some cases only one copy of a title exists and is very worn. In some cases (for example Jim Lee, Part 2) very little can be done to restore more than a fraction of what was originally in the grooves. But many tracks are substantially improved over all previous restorations with a clarity and presence allowing one to better understand the lyrics and appreciate the nuances of the guitar work.

The set is housed in a deluxe 11"x13"x3.5" hardcover simulated "78 Album and slipcase. The CDs themselves are presented in one of the cleverest pieces of CD packaging I've seen with each CD featuring a reproduction of a 78 rpm label and then mounted on 10" piece of cardboard so it looks like 78 and then inserted into a reproduction of a 78 rpm Paramount or Vocalion sleeve. Truly clever and utterly delightful.

The package includes a reprint of John Fahey's seminal 1970 book on Patton, Bernard Klatzko's notes from the first ever LP release of Patton's recordings as well as 128 pages of new notes by Fahey, David Evans, Dick Spottswood and Ed Komura. The set also includes complete lyric transcriptions, full-size reproductions of 6 original Paramount ads, a full set of 78 record label stickers from all of Charley's Paramount, Vocalion and Herwin releases plus dozens of other graphics.

My only criticism of this incredible endeavor is that that the new notes are printed in color ink on a dark background which makes reading a bit difficult.

A truly superb package of truly magnificent and important music that THE blues reissue of the millennium, so far. (FS)

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