Founder of the Delta Blues — Charley Patton (Yazoo, 1970)
‘Charlie [sic] Patton was the most powerful blues recording of artist of all time, as well as the most subtle,’ wrote Stephen Calt in the opening sentence of Yazoo’s Founder of the Delta Blues double album. Patton’s power is undeniable and indeed, close listening reveals many intricacies and tasteful surprises, even amidst the aural challenges presented by his gruff voice and the scratchy sound of his rare Paramount 78s. The mastering by Yazoo owner Nick Perls offered Patton’s rough-sounding-yet-sophisticated blues in the best audio quality ever achieved for Patton reissues at the time this album was released, although studio engineers have made advances in the years since. The 1929-30 Paramount here include the masterpieces ‘Pony Blues,’ ‘Screamin’ and Hollerin’ the Blues,’ ‘High Water Everywhere,’ and ‘Moon Going Down,’ and the final five tracks are from his 1934 Vocalion session. On all but a few sides here, Patton performs solo, although he sometimes creates spontaneous dialogues to simulate a cast of characters. Although his music was essentially ‘uncopyable,’ as Calt wrote, Patton left a huge imprint in the Delta, where his followers and associates included Howlin’ Wolf, Son House, Willie Brown, Pops Staples and Robert Johnson.