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Having a phonograph without these records is like having pork chops without gravy - Yes indeed - Columbia advertisement for Bessie Smith's Hateful Blues/Frankie Blues

Author Topic: Ancient review of a milestone release  (Read 1428 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Ancient review of a milestone release
« on: November 24, 2005, 11:38:32 AM »
I have no idea if this belongs here but I was trawling through Record Research on a quest to find something else and came across this in issue 40 (Jan 1962) which I just had to scan and pass around. Sam forgot to mention that the record was a "special collector's edition 500 copies", or so it claimed on the front sleeve:

THE SINGER by Samuel B. Charters

CHARLIE PATTON, GUITAR AND VOCAL, HENRY SIMS, VIOLIN ON SELECTIONS MARKED*.. High Sheriff Blues, Green River Blues, Elder Green Blues*, Moon Going Down, Going To Move To Alabama*, I Shall Not Be Moved, Stone Poney Blues, Frankie And Albert, Runnin' Wild Blues*, Some These Days I'll Be Gone, I'm Goin' Home, Poor Me. ORIGIN JAZZ LIBRARY, VOLUME I.

For those of us who have been struggling for years to get reissues of important records available to the growing audience for the country blues this first volume of the new Origin Jazz Library is like a touch of rain in a dry desert. Here are ten blues and two religious songs sung by one of the most exciting blues men ever to come out of the Mississippi delta country, re-engineered as well as could be done with the late Paramount surfaces from which most of the selections are taken, enclosed in an attractive jacket and discussed with extremely perceptive notes. This is the way it should have been done long ago, and to Pete Whalen and Bill Givens, directors of the OJL, should go a sincere gesture of thanks for finally doing it. I have only one quarrel with them, and I'll finish with it quickly. Despite their claims on the jacket front this is not the first time that Patton is " . . Once more an audible part of American music history." The first Charlie Patton re-issue was done nine years ago, as part of Harry Smith's monumental "American Folk Music" series for Folkways.
Their choice of Patton is an interesting one, and I think reflects their own attitudes toward the blues add toward OJL. Patton is one of the most difficult, uncompromising, and rewarding of the great blues singers of the late '20's. Also his records are among the rarest. There is considerable surface noise on some of the selections used, but it is almost impossible to find anything by Patton in any condition, and they were fortunate in being able to locate as many of the records as they did. For someone who has only a slight acquaintance with the blues Patton will be a frightening experience. His voice is harsh, his blues unrelieved with any theatrical mannerisms, his accompaniments rough and insistent. But with repeated listenings the voice becomes richly expressive, the blues often deeply moving in their imagery, and the accompaniment tightly interwoven with the entire performance. The range is a deceptively wide one, from the fierce cry of "Moon Going Down" to the plaintive "Poor Me, " and from the irresistible rhythm of "Some These Days I'll Be Gone" to the halting shout of "Stone Pony Blues. " Because of the difficulties with which anyone producing re-issues must struggle, the information dealing with the sources of the recordings has not been included in the notes, but because of the importance of this discographical information the directors have agreed that it should be included in this RR review, where it will reach both the serious blues enthusiast and the serious discographer.
Since the record appeared there has been new information gathered about Patton from singers who knew him or heard of him. There is, in fact, so much new material being added to our slender store of knowledge of country blues performers that it is difficult just to keep up with it. When I talked with the veteran blues singer J. D. Short in St. Louis last spring he said that Patton used to drop by his family's cabin when he was a boy. He was living outside of Hollandale, Mississippi, at that time. His father played the guitar and sang and there was always an instrument hanging up on the wall. He said that Patton was driving teams through the country side, and when he came by the cabin he would stop in and play a little and talk with J. D.'s father. J. D. remembers him singing, several times, a song that began "I'd Hook Up My Pony and Saddle Up My Gray Mare." He thought Patton was from a place called Murphy Bow, or Mirthy Bow, to the southwest of Clarksdale. He remembered him as an older man, already in his late thirties at the time of the first world war' and Patton's voice does have a harsh, older quality to it. Blind Willie Johnson, however, sounded even older on his recordings, and he was still in his twenties when they were done: so the question of Patton's age is still not settled. Short described Patton as a dark, heavy man, often wearing a broad brimmed hat, noisy and "Full of fun all the time."
Last fall another delta singer, Wade Walton, was in New York to record for the Prestige Bluesville series and Pete Whalen was able to talk to him about Patton. Walton owns a barber shop in Clarksdale, and he saw a different Patton, the Patton who was in town to have a good time. Probably he remembers him from a later period, when Patton was recording, and not working out in the country. Walton's description, from the notes that Whalen took during their conversation, was that Patton was a ". . .short, brownskin man - with short, curly hair. " He said that "Patton was the only man in Clarksdale who didn't have to work for a living. Both of his pockets were always filled with money. He would always walk the street with another fellow alongside, because the women were always after him. He was a very handsome man."
These new pieces information, together with the account of his death that is mentioned in the notes, help sketch in the figure of the man himself. The creative singer who emerges in these recordings, however, is larger than any story of his life can suggest. Here is an uncompromising and richly rewarding collection of blues by a singer who takes his place with the finest of the country blues singers of the late '20's.. It is enthusiastically recommended to anyone concerned with the blues. Although the OJL releases may be purchased in some of the better known jazz specialty shops it is better to write directly for both their "Charlie Patton" and for information on forthcoming releases. The address is:


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