When folks talks about the founding fathers (but do they ever mention the founding mothers?) of the Blues, the name most often mentioned is Robert Johnson and Son House, maybe. But Charley Patton (1891- 1934) was There First, and while Johnson may've been the Frank Lloyd Wright of the Blues, Patton was one of the guys who dug the foundation and mixed the cement. Patton had what may be handily referred to as a "raw," almost feral voice, yet he was possessed (maybe literally) of a voice with range: he had a low, gravelly rasp in the lower register (which Howlin' Wolf picked-up on in a big way, to be sure) and a smoother, clear, strong, almost cantor-like wail in the higher. His guitar style mixed a warm and rhythmic strum, delicate picking and emotive slide - definitely a bit more complex a player than Johnson (especially when Patton used different tempos in the same song.
Screamin' and Hollerin' The Blues - The Worlds of Charlie Patton is a 7 CD set, five of which contain ALL of Patton's recordings, including some that are previously unreleased. One disc features songs by his contemporaries and performers he influenced, such as the Wolf, Pops Staples, Ma Rainey and Tommy Johnson, and the final disc consists of interviews of people who knew Patton. Indeed, this handsomely packaged set is not for the casual blues fan, but rather The Delta Blues Scholar, somebody who's got a serious jones for R. Johnson/Son House/pre-urban acoustic blues and can't get enough. Check the web, or write to Revenant, P.O. Box 162766, Austin, TX 78716-2766.