Pony Blues: His 23 Greatest Songs

Pony Blues: His 23 Greatest Songs

by Charley Patton


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You could make a valid case that anything recorded by Charley Patton is seminal to the history of blues. These, however, are the secular pieces (in his final 1934 session he also recorded some religious titles) on which his reputation stands, and upon listening it's easy to understand why. He sang and played with total conviction, and so much of his repertoire has become standard over the years. Listen to "Pony Blues," for example, from his first session in 1929, and you can not only hear his haunting voice, but some superb guitar work, utterly individual and far ahead of anything else that was being record at the time. This was the real blues, earthy, rich, and resonant of the South (Patton's experiences around Dockery's Plantation), performed with a power no one else could equal until Robert Johnson. That first session, which yielded 14 sides, was perhaps his best, and eight of the titles here are drawn from it, including "Peavine Blues," which has become a Delta blues classic. But maybe the high point came from his second session in late 1929 and "High Water Everywhere," Patton's song about the 1927 Mississippi floods that decimated the Delta region. It's a masterpiece of tension and storytelling that says as much now as when it was originally recorded. The last five titles on the disc come from the final session Patton recorded in New York in 1934. He was ailing by then, soon to die, and the difference five years made is easy to tell. He sounds tired and weary of the world. But that didn't stop him from performing a classic "High Sheriff Blues," another indispensable piece of Patton blues. Even if the blues didn't start with Patton, he was certainly one of the first truly great recorded blues singer/guitarists -- and the finest from the early days of the Delta blues. The sound quality might not be perfect, by any means, but the music stands. As an introduction to Charley Patton, this is unbeatable.

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