Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues: The Worlds of Charley Patton

Charley Patton

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Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues: The Worlds of Charley Patton Review

by Richie Unterberger

Perhaps the most sumptuous, nay incredible, box set package ever devised for a blues artist, this lavish production contains seven CDs that not only contain everything Patton recorded as a soloist, but a ton of peripheral tracks to which he contributed or was associated. Yes, this has all 54 known extant Patton performances (including four unissued alternate takes), but that is, quite literally, not the half of it. There are also cuts recorded by other acts at Patton's sessions, including Walter Hawkins, Edith North Johnson, Henry Sims, Willie Brown, Son House, Louise Johnson, the gospel quartet the Delta Big Four, and Bertha Lee. Some of these he played on; some of them he might have played on; and some of them he didn't play on, though he knew (or might have known, anyway) the musicians. There are even a couple of test recordings of Paramount talent scout H.C. Speir reading headlines, which takes even this sort of fanaticism to the extreme, but why not the whole nine yards, right? Then there's an entire disc of tracks by other blues artists, spanning 1924 to 1957 (though mostly weighted toward the early years of that period), spotlighting songs that were related to Patton's repertoire, or inspired in some way by songs in his discography. That CD includes some pretty big names, like Ma Rainey, Furry Lewis, Tommy Johnson, Howlin' Wolf, Son House, Joe Williams, and even the Staple Singers, though room's also made for unknowns, including one "Blues" by Unidentified Convict. And then there's an entire disc of interviews about Patton with Howlin' Wolf, Rev. Booker Miller, H.C. Speir, and Pops Staples; the Rev. Booker Miller portion is more entertaining than most such spoken recordings, as he occasionally plays some guitar himself to illustrate points. Patton's own tracks are consistently inspired Delta blues, though the sound quality inevitably varies widely, sometimes coming through quite clearly, at other times fighting a wall of static. One's interest in the non-Patton selections, other than those on the solid CD of Patton-related tunes and Patton-inspired performers, might vary. Certainly the Son House 1930 recordings (including "Preachin' the Blues") are classic Delta blues songs in any setting, as are the far more obscure ones by Willie Brown. However, others, such as the ones by Edith North Johnson and the Delta Big Four, bear vaudevillian jazz and gospel influences that Delta blues fans might not take a shine to. The non-Patton tracks, too, sometimes suffer from unavoidably poor sound quality due to the extremely rough shape of the only surviving original copies.

On top of all this, the packaging is extraordinary by any measure, and would take a lengthy review in itself to even cursorily summarize. Suffice it to say that if you're a serious Patton fan (and it's hard to imagine you'll get this if you're not), you're in for several hours of entertainment even when the CDs aren't in the stereo. The set is packaged like a vintage, full-sized photo album, in the manner "albums" of discs were assembled prior to the invention of the 33 1/3 RPM LP, with slots for each of the seven CDs. There are 128 pages of portfolio-sized liner notes, including essays on Patton and his records, transcriptions of all of the lyrics, stories behind most of the songs/tracks, a "thematic catalogue" of Patton's music, photos, reproductions of old advertisements for 78s, repros of the labels on the original 78s, even an interview with a noted bluesologist about collecting original releases from the artist. Thrown in is the complete 112-page book that John Fahey wrote about Patton in 1970 (an actual book, separate from the liner notes) as part of a series of monographs for Blues Paperbacks, and a reprint of the liner notes Bernard Klatzko wrote for the first Patton compilation, The Immortal Charlie Patton.

Due to the expense and zealous completism of this release, most blues fans will be content to limit themselves to an intelligent single-CD compilation of Patton's work, such as Yazoo's Founder of the Delta Blues. If you have any serious hunger to go beyond that, though, and are wondering whether to splurge on this museum-quality piece -- do it. It truly is the last word, and one of the most impressively packaged box sets in all of popular music.

Track Listing - Disc 5

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Charley Patton 03:20 Amazon
2 Charley Patton 03:25 Amazon
3
Charley Patton feat: Delta Big Four 03:39 Amazon
4
Charley Patton feat: Delta Big Four 03:01 Amazon
5
Charley Patton feat: Delta Big Four 03:10 Amazon
6
Charley Patton feat: Delta Big Four 03:22 Amazon
7
Charley Patton feat: Delta Big Four 03:09 Amazon
8
Charley Patton feat: Delta Big Four 03:17 Amazon
9
Charley Patton feat: Delta Big Four 03:13 Amazon
10
Charley Patton feat: Delta Big Four 03:10 Amazon
11
Charley Patton feat: H.C. Speir 03:42 Amazon
12
Charley Patton feat: H.C. Speir 03:13 Amazon
13 Charley Patton 03:13 Amazon
14 Charley Patton 02:54 Amazon
15 Charley Patton 03:10 Amazon
16 Charley Patton 02:46 Amazon
17 Charley Patton 02:59 Amazon
18 Charley Patton 02:58 Amazon
19 Charley Patton 03:00 Amazon
20 Charley Patton 02:53 Amazon
21 Charley Patton feat: Bertha Lee 02:57 Amazon
22 Charley Patton feat: Bertha Lee 03:00 Amazon
23
Charley Patton feat: Bertha Lou 02:54 Amazon
24
Charley Patton feat: Bertha Lou 02:53 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 6

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
Charley Patton feat: Ma Rainey 03:11 Amazon
2 Charley Patton feat: Walter Rhodes 03:25 Amazon
3 Charley Patton feat: Furry Lewis 03:11 Amazon
4 Charley Patton feat: Reverend Rubin Lacy 02:58 Amazon
5 Charley Patton feat: Tommy Johnson 03:04 Amazon
6 Charley Patton feat: Tommy Johnson 03:28 Amazon
7 Charley Patton feat: Tommy Johnson 03:13 Amazon
8
Charley Patton feat: William Harris 03:04 Amazon
9 Charley Patton feat: Kid Bailey 03:06 Amazon
10 Charley Patton feat: Kid Bailey 02:57 Amazon
11 Charley Patton feat: Blind Joe Reynolds 02:59 Amazon
12 Charley Patton feat: Mississippi Sheiks 03:04 Amazon
13
Charley Patton feat: Charley Jordan 02:41 Amazon
14
Charley Patton feat: Blind Pete / George Ryan 02:17 Amazon
15 Charley Patton feat: Big Joe Williams 03:11 Amazon
16
Charley Patton feat: Willie Lofton 03:04 Amazon
17
Charley Patton 02:56 Amazon
18 Charley Patton feat: Bukka White 02:23 Amazon
19 Charley Patton feat: Bukka White 02:51 Amazon
20
Charley Patton feat: Willie Brown 03:26 Amazon
21 Charley Patton feat: Son House 02:12 Amazon
22 Charley Patton feat: Howlin' Wolf 02:34 Amazon
23 Charley Patton feat: Howlin' Wolf 02:49 Amazon
24
Charley Patton feat: Roebuck "Pops" Staples 05:22 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 7

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
Charley Patton feat: Pete Welding 02:05 Amazon
2
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 01:45 Amazon
3
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 00:59 Amazon
4
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 00:50 Amazon
5
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 02:59 Amazon
6
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 01:09 Amazon
7
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 00:46 Amazon
8
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 02:27 Amazon
9
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 01:14 Amazon
10
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 01:47 Amazon
11
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 06:31 Amazon
12
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 01:08 Amazon
13
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 00:22 Amazon
14
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 07:13 Amazon
15
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 02:49 Amazon
16
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 00:31 Amazon
17
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 04:40 Amazon
18
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 00:51 Amazon
19
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 02:35 Amazon
20
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 01:10 Amazon
21
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 01:11 Amazon
22
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 01:30 Amazon
23
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 00:36 Amazon
24
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 02:08 Amazon
25
Charley Patton feat: Gayle Dean Wardlow 04:18 Amazon
26
Charley Patton feat: Chris Strachwitz 01:59 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick