FEATURED ARTIST / S
Charley Patton Vol 2; Late November / Early December 1929
Charley Patton, vocal, guitar, bottleneck slide-guitar.
Includes performances by Henry Sims.
Genres: Mississippi Country Blues, Delta Blues, Country Blues Guitar.
Extensive, detailed booklet notes by Bob Groom.
Charlie Patton is considered, with some justification, to be the archetypal, Mississippi Delta blues singer / guitarist. His guitar playing, including his bottleneck slide guitar technique, coupled with his gritty vocal delivery created a mixture of some of the most primitive yet sublime recordings to be made in the “pre-war blues” era. Many of his recorded performances are so powerful as to be unsurpassed within the genre. At the same time he had an overpowering presence that embodied the very essence of the Mississippi Blues. Equally, he can well be thought of as a songster, in view of his wide-ranging repertoire of “ blues, ballads, rags, spirituals and popular songs“ that he displays on his recordings which are presented on Document’s three volumes of Charley Patton’s recordings. Certainly, he was a showman and entertainer whose live performances could be sombre, melancholy, intense or humorous. Yet he differs from his “songster” contemporaries like Mississippi John Hurt and Mance Lipscomb in that he used solid blues as a vehicle for an intensely personal musical expression. These three volumes present all of his issued recordings. His original 78 rpm records are extremely rare. In many cases there are only single known copies which are now the prized possessions of collectors.
At his second recording session Charley recorded Green River Blues, which is possibly one of his older pieces. Farrell Blues, a tribute to his hometown, and the venerable Come Back Corrina feature vocals by fiddler Henry Sims. These are pleasant, if unadventurous performances with Patton confining himself to a strummed guitar accompaniment.
The two takes of Hammer Blues (correctly titled “Hammock Blues”) are very similar and exude a curious feeling of enervation. Magnolia Blues and When Your Way Gets Dark are virtually alternative takes of the same song, with shimmering slide guitar playing and snapped bass strings. Sadly, the only surviving copy of Heart Like Railroad Steel has a great deal of surface noise but this fails to mask what is an exceptional performance, even by Patton’s own high standards.
Completing the session were two sanctified pieces, Some Happy Day, with slide echoing the voice, and You’re Gonna Need Somebody When You Come To Die. A further day’s session produced another 10 Patton masters plus 2 more Sims vocals. The 2-part Jim Lee Blues celebrates a Mississippi river boat that plied between Vicksburg and Memphis. It includes fragments of “Red River Blues” and “Poor Boy” and even verses that connect it with black minstrelsy.
More typical of the latter-day Patton is the 2-part High Water Everywhere, a graphic account of the 1927 Mississippi River flood which sounds completely spontaneous, even though recorded nearly three years after the event and almost certainly not totally improvised in the studio. This gripping tour-de-force was, deservedly, very popular.
Rattlesnake Blues, a May 1930 release, was one of the best of the Patton-Sims collaborations, with Patton in commanding voice, and it sold quite well.