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Down The Dirt Road
The songs of Charlie Patton

Down The Dirt Road - The Songs of Charlie Patton

By Todd Warnke
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CD Stock Number: Telarc CD-83535

  It's a sad and misguided fact that musical myths admit no more than one person to attend the birth of a new genre. Hence Louis Armstrong is hailed as the founder of Jazz to the detriment of Buddy Bolden, Sidney Bechet and King Oliver among others. While in Blues Robert Johnson's tunes were in perfect alignment to the sensibilities and playing style of the '60s generation of blues-based rock musicians. That, plus the mystery surrounding his meteoric rise and mysterious death, has elevated Johnson over other, earlier blues founders such as Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Big Joe Williams and Charlie Patton. It's not that Johnson doesn't deserve his fame any more than Armstrong his, rather the issue is that such a narrow view, especially for those who come to the Blues by way of Rock, obscures these other towering, inventive and deserving artists. This tribute, besides its obvious musical merits, helps remove part of the shadow over Charlie Patton.

Patton, who was 24 years older than Johnson, was the first true star of blues recordings and was one of the defining influences on the younger man. With his first hit, "Pony Blues" in 1929 Patton established himself as a bona fide star. Intense, powerful and driven, he set the blueprint for the Delta style. A ferocious guitar player, often employing a slide technique, Patton spent the next five years, until his death in 1934, recording a string of hits. "Pea Vine Blues", "Elder Greene Blues", "Poor Me", "Down the Dirt Road Blues", and "Mississippi Bo Weavil Blues" are all classics and are covered on this collection.

Recorded with typical Telarc care and craftsmanship and using the stable of Telarc and affiliated artists, the mood here is primarily acoustic delta but includes two wider ranging cuts, the country-folk take on "I Shall Not Be Moved" in a stunning version by Paul Rishell and Annie Raines and a near jazz version of "Some Summer Day", the only electrified and vocal-less track on the album. Other standout tracks include the take no prisoners version of "Sugar Mama" by Joe Louis Walker, a solo harmonica and vocal version of "Pony Blues" by Snooky Prior, Charlie Musselwhite taking on "Pea Vine Blues", a banjo/tuba (!) rip-up of "Shake It and Break It" by Skip James, and lastly Mark Rubin and Dave Van Ronk tearing into "Mississippi Bo Weavil Blues".

The closing "Down the Dirt Road Blues/When Your Way Gets Dark" is a near ten minute long masterpiece with Per Hanson on percussion, Gregg Hoover on guitar and highlighting the amazing voice of Collen Sexton. Be sure to give this album a good listen, but also pick up either the one disc Patton compilation Founder of the Delta Blues on Yazoo or the three disc set, The Definitive Charlie Patton on the Catfish label as a companion piece. You'll thank me, and Robert Johnson won't mind sharing the stage with his early idol at all.

 

Enjoyment: 90

Sound: 90

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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