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Various Artists: Down the Dirt Road

The Songs of Charley Patton

[cover art]

Various blues and rock greats, including Levon Helm on drums on the track "Some of These Days," perform Patton standards on this 2001 release from Telarc. Keyboard player Dan McKinney, who has been playing live with Jim Weider & the Honky Tonk Gurus, sits in with Kid Bangham on the track "Some Summer Day."

Charley Patton was the first great star of the Delta blues. His dark, passionate singing and fluid, rhythmic guitar playing made him the king of early blues artists. He was an acknowledged celebrity and a seminal influence on musicians throughout the Mississippi Delta, including Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf. In the 1920s, Patton’s records - especially his first big hit, "Pony Blues" - could be heard on phonographs as far off as St. Louis and Chicago.

Down the Dirt Road - The Songs of Charley Patton forms an entire statement on making traditional Delta style blues in a contemporary setting and spotlights a wide variety of artists not only from the electric and acoustic blues worlds, but from the rootsier side of folk, country and rock.

The diverse crew on Down the Dirt Road - The Songs of Charley Patton includes harmonica master Snooky Pryor (an originator himself) and his fellow Mississippian Charlie Musselwhite, along with guitarists Kid Bangham and blues boss Joe Louis Walker. Corey Harris, Guy Davis, Steve James, Paul Rishell and Annie Raines all represent a cross-section of contemporary roots sounds. The list is rounded out by singer/guitarist Dave Van Ronk, British rock legend Graham Parker and new folk voice Coleen Sexton.

From his debut session in 1929 to his death in 1934, Patton recorded over fifty song titles, and that body of music is what inspired the twelve performances heard here: "Elder Greene Blues," "Poor Me," "Pea Vine Blues," "Pony Blues," "I Shall Not Be Moved," "Some of These Days," "Sugar Mama," "Mississippi Bo Weavil Blues," "Moon Going Down," "Shake It and Break It," "Some Summer Day" and "Down the Dirt Road Blues/When Your Way Gets Dark."

Patton has been called the "father of the Delta blues" and his birth, near Edwards, Mississippi, in 1887, bears out the title; he was literally a generation older than bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson who carried on his musical legacy. Information on his own artistic beginnings is fragmentary - there were sacred songs from his father, a church deacon, and early guitar tutelage from the mystery songster Henry Sloan along with youthful experience in traveling medicine shows. He was largely raised on the vast Dockery plantation, where field hollers, levee camp moans and the sound of bottleneck slide guitar were common. By the time he left in 1921, Patton's mastery was undisputed. Although he was not the first Delta bluesman to record, he quickly became one of the most popular.

On Down the Dirt Road - The Songs of Charley Patton, a unique roster of musicians has come together to pay creative tribute to Charley Patton - a prime architect of the Delta blues sound and one of the great voices in American music.

--from the Telarc web site


  1. Elder Greene Blues
    performed by James, Steve / Rubin, Mark
  2. Poor Me
    performed by Parker, Graham  
  3. Pea Vine Blues
    performed by Musselwhite, Charlie  
  4. Pony Blues
    performed by Pryor, Snooky  
  5. I Shall Not Be Moved
    performed by Rishell, Paul / Raines, Annie  
  6. Some of These Days
    performed by Davis, Guy / Wolk, T-Bone / Murphy, Mark  
  7. Sugar Mama
    performed by Walker, Joe Louis  
  8. Mississippi Bo Weavil Blues
    performed by VanRonk, Dave  
  9. Moon Going Down
    performed by Harris, Corey  
  10. Shake It and Break It
    performed by James, Steve / Rubin, Mark  
  11. Some Summer Day
    performed by Bangham, Kid / McKinney, Dan / Melcher, Bill  
  12. Down the Dirt Road Blues/When Your Way Gets Dark
    performed by Sexton, Colleen / Hoover, Gregg / Hanson, Per


  • Kid Bangham -- guitar
  • Guy Davis -- vocals, guitar, harmonica
  • Dave Ferrara -- drums
  • Per Hanson -- percussion
  • Corey Harris -- vocals, guitar
  • Levon Helm -- drums
  • Gregg Hoover -- guitar
  • Steve James -- vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo
  • Dan McKinney -- piano, organ
  • Bill Melcher -- bass
  • Mark Murphy -- upright bass
  • Charlie Musselwhite -- vocals, guitar
  • Graham Parker -- vocals, guitar
  • Snooky Pryor -- vocals, harmonica
  • Annie Raines -- harmonica, vocals
  • Paul Rishell -- vocals, guitar
  • Dave Van Ronk -- vocals, guitar
  • Mark Rubin -- upright bass, tuba
  • Colleen Sexton -- vocals
  • Joe Louis Walker -- vocals, guitar
  • T-Bone Wolk -- banjo, mandolin

Various Artists - Down the Dirt Road - 2001 - Telarc CD-83535

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