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

BookFair exclusive!

Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues: The Worlds of Charley Patton is the musical equivalent of a limited-edition, fine-press book, and it's easily one of the most beautiful collections of recorded music ever assembled. Exquisitely designed, this 78-album-inspired, seven-CD package contains a wealth of information and music, featuring not only the Delta blues pioneer's complete recorded works, but the music of peripheral players (including Son House, Howlin' Wolf, and Henry "Son" Sims), a disc of fascinating audio interviews with Patton associates, and hours of reading material on the enigmatic songster.

It's hard not to romanticize the music contained within this set as you open its retro-looking slipcase, but Patton (1887-1934) doesn't let you down. Under the haze of 78 rpm record hiss, his 50-odd preserved recordings spellbind with great guitar playing and moving lyrics about love, loss, and catastrophes. Who cares if his life lacked the mystique of Robert Johnson, or his low, growling voice wasn't the creepy falsetto of Skip James? Patton's repertoire was unparalleled; his guitar playing--punctuated by striking syncopated, percussive beats--is always in tune and precise; and his slide playing is full subtle whines and flourishes. These remastered tracks sound better than ever, but there's still plenty of hiss (for some tunes, just one abused and poorly pressed record has survived). Copious, scholarly (and, at times, a little arcane) liner notes debate and survey Patton's mysterious life and tunes; the complete lyrics to his songs are included, too--no small feat. But it's the music--utterly raw, striking, and influential blues--that steals the show here.

Revenant Records has outdone itself--this is a poignant dream project that label cofounder/guitar great John Fahey didn't live long enough to see completed--and it's well worth every penny. Only a handful of musical artists deserve this lavish a treatment; as evidenced here, Patton--the first great Delta blues musician on record--is certainly one of them. --Jason Verlinde

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