When Document took on the pre-'60s recordings of Roosevelt Sykes, nearly three decades of musical productivity filled no less than ten compact discs. While anyone who really knows and loves this man's legacy will unhesitatingly vote for investing in every record he ever made, a more temperate choice exists in the Document-derived Essential Roosevelt Sykes, a double-disc 36-track anthology tapping into his pre-WWII period beginning with his first recording date which took place on June 14, 1929, then proceeding through the '30s to his Bluebird session of February 18, 1946. Aside from the fact that it begins at the beginning, this tour is not conducted chronologically. Sykes is said to have learned "44 Blues" from his mentor Leothus Lee Green, who claimed to have gotten it from Little Brother Montgomery. Sykes was the first to record it; by June of the following year, he had changed the caliber as it were to the "32-20 Blues." This in turn was given an unforgettable treatment in July 1945 by Big Maceo Merriweather, and countless similarly grim firearm-brandishing blues tunes have since been based upon it. On this expansive collection, Sykes is heard with guitarist Clifford Gibson, who was breaking a QRS contract by recording for Okeh and therefore used the name Oscar Carter. Gibson is audible on "44 Blues" and "All My Money Gone Blues," and he sings on "I'm Tired of Being Mistreated." The guitarist on "Jet Black Snake" was James "Kokomo" Arnold, and the violinist on the "Mosby Stomp" was Curtis Mosby, a drummer who is best remembered as leader of a band he called his Dixieland Blue Blowers. Vocalists who show up in this collection are James "Stump" Johnson ("Barrel of Whiskey Blues"); Carl Rafferty ( "Mr. Carl's Blues"); Napoleon Fletcher ("She Showed It All"), and Emerson Houston, who sings the "Strange Man Blues." None of these singers would have made it even this far out of the woodwork today had they not recorded briefly with Roosevelt Sykes long ago. One important point: "The Honeydripper" is derived from a recording by Edith North Johnson on which Sykes played piano back in 1929. It was she who began referring to Sykes as "The Honeydripper," and that sexualized tag would be with him for the rest of his days. This song should not be confused with a boogie-woogie swing tune recorded in 1944 by Joe Liggins (who was also nicknamed "The Honeydripper") and popularized by Cab Calloway in 1945. Sykes' "Honeydripper" is deeper, more gradual, and deliberate. Like most of his music, it tells a story and makes a point.