Tag Archives: Charley Patton

365 Days of Album Selections – July 31

Charley Patton – The Complete Recordings 1929-1934 (Disc 2)


With international week now over, we can get back to the Delta Blues, and when we do the delta blues, we do Charley Patton. Simple.

We reviewed Disc 1 of this incomparable collection, which is in effect the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Delta Blues. We now do Disc 2.

Disc: 2
1. Hammer Blues: Take 1
2. I Shall Not Be Moved
3. High Water Everywhere: Part 1
4. High Water Everywhere: Part 2
5. I Shall Not Be Moved
6. Rattlesnake Blues
7. Going To Move To Alabama
8. Hammer Blues: Take 2
9. Joe Kirby
10. Frankie And Albert
11. Magnolia Blues
12. Devil Sent The Rain Blues
13. Runnin’ Wild Blues
14. Some Happy Day
15. Mean Black Moan
16. Green River Blues
17. That’s My Man – Edith North Johnson
18. Honey Dripper Blues: No. 2 – Edith North Johnson
19. Eight Hour Woman – Edith North Johnson
20. Nickel’s Worth Of Liver Blues: No 2 – Edith North Johnson

High Water Everywhere, Parts 1 & 2, is a musical accomplishment of such staggering excellence it’s hard to convey my excitement when I first heard it, and every time since, including right now, as I’m listening to it again.

While I understand much of the idolatry that surrounds Robert Johnson, and while I understand why in many ways it’s justified, one thing I’ve never understood is the notion that his guitar playing was so otherworldly better than anything that had been heard prior, or why Lonnie Johnson is so often cited as the only precursoring influence who could give him a run for his 6-string money. Listen to High Water Everywhere, Part 1. It’s just a fucking tour de force. Patton does more with a guitar than any one human has rights to do. It’s funky, it’s melodic, it’s sophisticated, it’s raw, it’s so bloody complicated. He thumps, and pulls, and slaps, and bangs, and he rings chords, and he runs single strings, and he throws down inversions and walks and segues and turnarounds, and it’s just bloody remarkable.

And that’s just 2 of 20 songs. Get religion, people. Patton is a god.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Feb 25

The Mississippi Sheiks – Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, Vols. 1 – 3


We have Document records to thank for originally making available all the recorded works from this unbelievably important and influential ensemble, tho Vinyl heads out there may want to take note that Jack White’s Third Man Records has recently teamed up with Document to release this catalog on vinyl.

Mainly, you need to make sure to go the Complete Recorded Works route when it comes to the Sheiks—as opposed to any of the currently available compilations—because Volume 3 is the only way to get Shake Hands And Tell Me Goodbye, which is for my money one of their very best songs.

So, of course Sittin’ On Top Of The World, easily one of the most important folks-blues songs ever recorded. But there are SO many other classics as well! The Jazz Fiddler, Stop and Listen, I’ve Got Blood In My Eyes For You, Honey Babe Let The Deal Go Down, and so many more.

The Mississippi Sheiks were like Delta royalty. The core of the group was Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon, the latter of THE Chatmon family, which included Sam Chatmon, himself an important musician, and Armenter Chatmon, who under the name of Bo Carter had a very successful career as well. The Chatmons even claimed Charley Patton as a cousin!

Sonically, The Mississippi Sheiks were the roughest of Country Blues, co-mingled with the swing of early jazz and ragtime, and the hoppin’ and drawlin’ drag of string bands, the latter coming courtesy of Chatmon’s improbable “Country Blues Fiddle” …

Mainly, they were extremely talented songwriters and performers who gave so much to the canon of American music, and they should be honored as artists of massive stature, and national treasures to boot.

Get all three volumes, and just listen in order, and don’t stop for a stretch until after Shake Hands And Tell Me Goodbye!


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Feb 17

Charley Patton – The Complete Recordings 1929-1934 (Disc 1)


Charley Patton is the grandaddy of us all. He is the original fount from which all water flows. This is the voice. This is the rhythm. These are the songs. This is the guitar.

After Patton, only God.

The early country blues recordings have been remastered many times over in attempts to render them more listenable, less buried in static. Of all who’ve tried, my favorite is generally JSP. Their box sets of Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell, and more, are simply canonical; the Dead Sea Scrolls of this music.

This collection is a 5-CD set, so I have 4 more opportunities to recommend it. Today, I recommend Disc 1. Reading the track list is like reading the Psalms; how do you pick just one to live by?

1. Pony Blues
2. A Spoonful Blues
3. Down The Dirt Road Blues
4. Prayer Of Death: Part 1
5. Prayer Of Death: Part 2
6. Screamin’ And Hollerin’ The Blues
7. Banty Rooster Blues
8. Tom Rushen Blues
9. It Won’t Be Long
10. Shake It And Break It (But Don’t Let It Fall, Mama)
11. Pea Vine Blues
12. Mississippi Boll Weevil Blues
13. Lord, I’m Discouraged
14. I’m Goin’ Home

No use to hollerin’, no use to screamin’ an cryin’
You know you got a home, mama, long as I got mine

I think that’s one of the most beautiful pieces of lyric poetry ever composed. I honestly don’t give two fucks for anybody who doesn’t get this. Though I feel sorry for writers like Marybeth Hamilton (author of “In Search Of The Blues”) who are too hung up to be able to experience what’s right in front of them.

I think you just have to have a kind of country blues buddha wisdom to understand. This is enlightenment. There is no argument, no discussion, no right, no wrong. There only is. When you are young, when you have Beginner’s Mind, Charley Patton is Charley Patton, and the blues are the blues. Then as you grow, and start to think too much, and get clouded up in the grasping attachments of a clinging mind, Charley Patton is no longer Charley Patton, and the blues are no longer the blues. Then, finally, when you achieve enlightenment, when you have Zen Mind, Charley Patton is Charley Patton, and the blues are the blues.

It Was A Set Your Daddy Dug Tonight [Live Tracks Included]

Preacher Boy - Virgil Thrasher - The National Blues

The inestimably excellent Virgil Thrasher brought his groovily moody and soulfully squallfull harmonica to the stage this evening, and together we ran down a set list which—upon retrospecting—I rather dig.

Here’s the full list of the songs we spelunked in and out of over the course of two solid hours tonight (please click the hyperlinked tracks to hear live, guerrilla-live recordings straight from the stage to vibrating drums:

If I Had Possession Over My Judgement Day (arr. PB, after Robert Johnson)

Rollin’ Stone (arr. PB, after Rev. Robert Wilkins)

Evil Blues (arr. PB, after Mance Lipscomb)

Revenue Man Blues (arr. PB, after Charley Patton)

Levee Camp Blues (arr. PB, after Mississippi Fred McDowell)

Settin’ Sun (PB, from “The National Blues”)

Comin’ Up Aces (PB, from “Demanding To Be Next”)

I Just Hang Down My Head And I Cry (trad., arr. PB, after Mance Lipscomb)

Catfish Blues (trad., arr. PB, after Willie Doss)

Jackson Street (PB, from “Demanding To Be Next”)

The Dogs (PB, from “The Devil’s Buttermilk”)

Obituary Writer Blues (PB, from “The National Blues”)

Down And Out In This Town (PB, from “Gutters and Pews”)

Red Cedar River Blues (PB, new-unreleased)

My Car Walks On Water (PB, from “The National Blues”)

99 Bottles (PB, Demanding To Be Next”)

That’s No Way To Get Along (arr. PB, after Rev. Robert Wilkins)

Casey Bill Weldon (PB, new-unreleased)

You’ve Been A Good Old Wagon (arr. PB, after Dave Van Ronk)

Death Letter Blues (arr. PB, after Son House)


Yeah man. I dig. I dug. I dig.

Answer: Charley Patton, Bukka White, Blind Willie Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Dave Van Ronk

Question: Who are your Top 5 Most Influential Vocalists?



Depending on whether you’re at all familiar with my musical career, this may or may not be a surprising list.

But it’s definitely the list. I will never, never, never forget the first moments when I heard each of these singers. Thank you Yazoo Records. Thank you Takoma Records. Thank you Chess Records. Thank you Folkways Records. Thank you to my parents for having a record player in the house. Thank you to Samuel Charters for writing The Country Blues.

And while I’m at it, thank you to my first grade teacher for making fun of my voice when I tried to sing “I Saw Her Standing There.” You set me on a whole different vocal path, lady. And I thank you.

The thing is, if you’ve ever read a review of a Preacher Boy album, you’re probably thinking, why isn’t Tom Waits on this list? After all, virtually every Preacher Boy review in the last 25+ years has managed to mention Tom Waits.

Well, he’s not on my Top 5 list, because he doesn’t belong there.

The thing is, I was intimately and obsessively familiar with the music of the five artists in the title of this post long before I had any idea who Tom Waits was. The reason someone hipped me to Tom Waits in the first place was because they knew the other stuff I was into. It was a former roommate of mine; a college radio DJ. He gave me a Memorex. One side was Mose Allison. On the other, Swordfishtrombones.

Now, was Waits an influence? Absolutely. But not because of his voice per se. He was an influence because THAT voice was writing THOSE songs. That was what made the difference for me.

See, I knew what my voice sounded like. It wasn’t pretty. But that was ok. I didn’t like pretty voices. Charley Patton’s voice made sense to me. Bukka White’s voice made sense to me. Blind Willie Johnson’s voice made sense to me. They were the right voices for their music. That made sense to me.

I knew what my voice sounded like. It wasn’t pretty. But that was ok. I didn’t like pretty voices.

And I knew how I was going to play guitar. I’d heard Mance Lipscomb. I’d heard Fred McDowell. I’d heard Robert Pete Williams. I’d heard Son House. I got it, man. I got it. Ever since I heard Mississippi John Hurt playing Sliding Delta, I knew what I was going to do as a guitarist.

And I knew I was going to be a songwriter.

But that was the problem. How to connect it all? I wasn’t going to write songs like Charley Patton. That wouldn’t have been honest. I knew who I was, and even at a young age, I expected authenticity of myself. So what to do? I didn’t know. I didn’t think I was going to do anything.

Then, I heard “16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought Six.” Vocally, I got it. The man had clearly listened to a lot of the same things I had. And the groove, the rawness, the hypnotic stomping drone-ness of it; I got that. Those were country blues ingredients. But the lyrics. The lyrics. Here was something different. A new sort of language, a new sort of poetry. A sort of rustic, sordid, gritty, earthen, American poetry that was both mystical and soiled. It was at once visionary and hallucinogenic, but also totally raw and present and real and folky and outlandish. A kind of literate and bent hobo prosody. It was Nelson Algren and Gary Snyder and James Wright and Tony Joe White and Jack Kerouac and Carson McCullers and Flannery O’ Connor and Raymond Chandler and Erksine Caldwell and Bob Dylan and Tim Buckley and Townes Van Zandt and Toni Morrison, all rolled into one. I got it. I dug it.

So that’s the Waits influence in a nutshell for me. His music—as represented by that blessed trio of Swordfishtrombones, Frank’s Wild Years, and Rain Dogs— made clear to me it was possible to weld voice and music and lyrics together in ways I hadn’t previously believed entirely possible.

But here’s the thing … and I’m probably gonna get some flack for sayin’ this … but the thing is, Tom Waits can’t play country blues. I can.

So back to my list. Charley Patton. The rawest of them all. Listen to Charley Patton’s vocals on High Water Everywhere. He sounds insane, and like he’s about to die. That’s what I strive for. Bukka White. You can’t get heavier than that. When he sings the line “When can I change my clothes?” you hear the whole history of masculinity and pain in his voice. That’s what I strive for. Blind Willie Johnson. Jesus, listen to my first record. It’s almost embarrassing to me now, how obviously derivative some of my songs are. The Cross Must Move? Please … Still, I’m really proud of that song! It’s still with me today. Derivative or not, it IS authentic to me. I’m still singin’ it and playin’ it today, 21 years after it was released. Howlin’ Wolf. Synonymous with nuanced ferocity. When I first heard the song “Who’s Been Talkin'” I thought, right. That. How do I do that? Dave Van Ronk. This should be obvious. Virtually the only white guy from the whole folk-blues thing in the sixties who could actually sing and play country blues. So yeah, when I heard him, I had hope, man. His approach still informs so much of what I do. But mainly, I just loved that he sung with total and complete full-throated abandon. No mic needed. That’s my barometer of true vocal authenticity. If you NEED a mic? Ain’t interested …

Listen to Charley Patton’s vocals on High Water Everywhere. He sounds insane, and like he’s about to die. That’s what I strive for.

Here’s my recommendations, if you’re not familiar with these voices. Start with these songs:

  • Charley Patton: High Water Everywhere, Parts 1 & 2
  • Bukka White: When Can I Change My Clothes
  • Blind Willie Johnson: God Moves On The Water
  • Howlin’ Wolf: I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)
  • Dave Van Ronk: Po’ Lazarus

Such beautiful music, man.

Setlist Chronicles -or- The Strange Bird Songs I Played Tonight

Preacher Boy, Mission St. BBQ, photo by Jake J. Thomas

(Preacher Boy, live at Mission St. BBQ. Photo by Jake J. Thomas.)

Kind of an intriguing set tonight, if I do say so myself. I certainly bookended with a pair of the usual suspects, and there were a few other familiar chirps throughout as well, but all in all, quite a lot of strange birds making sonic appearances tonight. Lots of country blues in here. Here’s the full list of what I ran down:

  1. If I Had Possession Over My Judgement Day (Robert Johnson, arr. PB)
  2. Preachin’ Blues (Son House, arr. PB)
  3. Levee Camp Blues (Mississippi Fred McDowell, arr. PB)
  4. Old Jim Granger (from the Preacher Boy album “The Tenderloin EP”)
  5. Diving Duck Blues (Sleepy John Estes, arr. PB)
  6. Evil Blues (Mance Lipscomb, arr. PB)
  7. A Little More Evil (from the Preacher Boy album “The National Blues”)
  8. Revenue Man Blues (Charley Patton, arr. PB)
  9. Milk Cow Blues (Mississippi Fred McDowell, arr. PB)
  10. Catfish Blues (Willie Doss, arr. PB)
  11. The Dogs (from the Preacher Boy album “The Devil’s Buttermilk”)
  12. Spoonful Blues (Charley Patton, arr. PB)
  13. Down And Out In This Town (from the Preacher Boy album “Gutters & Pews”)
  14. Sliding Delta (Mississippi John Hurt, arr. PB)
  15. Stagolee (Mississippi John Hurt, arr. PB)
  16. A Person’s Mind (from the Preacher Boy album “The National Blues”)
  17. Down South Blues (Sleepy John Estes, arr. PB)
  18. Coal Black Dirt Sky (from the Preacher Boy album “Crow”)
  19. Black Crow (from the Preacher Boy album “Crow”)
  20. Railroad (from the Preacher Boy album “Gutters & Pews”)
  21. Motherless Children (Blind Willie Johnson,/Mance Lipscomb/Dave Van Ronk, arr. PB)
  22. Shake ‘Em On Down (Bukka White)

And for your listening pleasure, two straight-from-the-stage-to-yer-ear-buds guerrilla-live tracks:

Preacher Boy – Sliding Delta [LIVE]

(arrangement based on the Mississippi John Hurt version)

Preacher Boy – Levee Camp Blues [LIVE]

(arrangement based on a recorded performance by Mississippi Fred McDowell)

For the guitar heads amongst ye, this version of Sliding Delta is performed on a ’36 National (Grandpa’s National), which is set up for standard tuning. This chords are based on Key of E forms, but the guitar is capo’d at the 4th fret. Levee Camp Blues is performed on a different ’36 National (THE National), and the guitar is tuned to an Open G tuning, then capo’d at the 2nd fret.

For the footwear fanatics amongst ye, the stomps come courtesy of my cowboy boots, which are a Size 13.


Rollin’ the PreachSongs Dice


Tonight, Virgil and I, we gon’ jus’ roll the dice, and see what songs come up. Recent “set lists” (in quotes of course, cuz they’re not exactly planned!) have included songs from just about every Preacher Boy album over the last 20 years (including some I’ve NEVER played live before), plus a whole slew of groovy ol’ country blues gems and other Preachorum Obscurata. Here’s just a sampling:


The Cross Must Move & Dead, Boy (from Preacher Boy and the Natural Blues, Blind Pig Records)

Ugly & In The Darkened Night (from Gutters & Pews, Blind Pig Records)

Old Jim Granger & Rollin’ Stone (from The Tenderloin EP, Blind Pig Records, Wah Tup Records)

Black Crow & Coal Black Dirt Sky (from Crow, Wah Tup Records)

The Dogs & At The Corner Of The Top And The Bottom (from The Devil’s Buttermilk, Manifesto Records)

A Little Better When It Rains & One-Way Turnstile (from Demanding To Be Next, Coast Road Records)

A Person’s Mind & A Little More Evil (from The National Blues, Coast Road Records)




Mama, Let Me Play With Your Yo-Yo (Blind Willie McTell)

Stagolee (Mississippi John Hurt)

Levee Camp Blues (Mississippi Fred McDowell)

Milk Cow Blues (Kokomo Arnold)

I Just Hang Down My Head And I Cry (Mance Lipscomb)

Diving Duck Blues (Sleepy John Estes)

Fixin’ To Die (Bukka White)

Preachin’ Blues (Son House)

Spoonful (Charley Patton)

Maggie Campbell (Tommy Johnson)


And more, and more, and more!




#PBATNB live at The Pocket -or- A Lil #SwampNStomp Fer Yer Ear Pocket

In trio formation, Preacher Boy and The National Blues (#PBATNB) return to The Pocket in Santa Cruz tonight to paint the walls with some proprietary #SwampNStomp fer thy ear pockets …



Dr. V on the chromo-harps and tremulators, The Hi-Jack Zack Attack on the trash cans, and His Lowness Your Truly, in Hatty w/ the Natty, bringin’ three hours worth of the Crisco fer yer disco …

Somethin’ from the original Preacher Boy and The Natural Blues?  A bit o’ Dead, Boy, or Ugly, or Like Me, perhaps? Here’s a journey back in time for ya … my first promo pic, from my first record deal …


How’s about a bump er two from the Gutters & Pews news? Catfish? Down and Out in This Town?

Or maybe just some groovy ol’ delta thumps: Son House, Charley Patton, Blind Willie Johnson, Bukka White, et al  etc.

Dig up, and see ya soon …

Scenes From Songs That Prove The Blues Is The Blues

From Charley Patton’s “High Sherriff Blues”:

It takes boozy booze, Lord, to carry me through
It takes boozy booze, Lord, to carry me through
Thirty days seem like years in a jailhouse where there is no booze

The Best of Charlie Patton



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