In addition to compiling definitive statements of the finest bluesmen of the 1920s and 1930s, Shanachie-owned Yazoo Records has assembled some wonderful themed compilations from the period as well. Roots of Rock has its parallels in releases like Roots of Rap, The Music Never Stopped: Roots of the Grateful Dead (both from Yazoo) and Catfish Records' Roots of Canned Heat. Indeed, four of the tunes here have been covered by the Los Angeles blues tributaries. Others have been appropriated to varying degrees by the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Captain Beefheart, and Lydia Lunch. While "Spoonful" is probably the most commonly rendered blues standard on the collection, there's nothing quite like Charlie Patton's take, recorded by the guitarist in the late '20s for Paramount. He alters the song's phrasing and syncopation to great effect, turning the lyrics into an animated conversation and the music into a thrilling slide guitar showcase (employing an impressive seven chords). Even more stunning is Skip James' "I'm So Glad." Anyone who is only familiar with the version from Fresh Cream has to hear this. It's difficult to match the majesty of James' gorgeous falsetto and dizzying, almost giddy guitar playing. It stands as one of the guitarist's greatest performances. Other highlights include Tommy Johnson's widely popular "Big Road Blues" and the more obscure "Outside Woman Blues" from Blind Joe Reynolds. Yazoo is hardly the only label to have pointed the way to such original source material, but its detailed liner notes and high mastering standards place the label a cut above the rest.
AllMusic Review by Nathan Bush