Charley Patton - Blues Singer, guitarist ( 1892 - 1934)
Scraped and raw as a freshly plowed field, Charley Patton’s voice decries his harsh life amid the plantation system of the Reconstruction-era South. Patton rises defiantly from scratched 78 rpm shellac records, his voice in sync with the relentless clang of the Stella guitar he tuned a whole-step sharp to cut like a scythe in raucous juke joints; his prickly presence makes his protégé Howlin’ Wolf sound like a crooner. His is a brutally uncompromising sound that modern ears may find daunting. Listeners used to standard 12-bar progressions and regular four-beat measures may also find disconcerting the idiosyncrasies of early blues accompaniment, which follows the vocal line, rather than vice-versa. Like some of the greatest art in any media, however, time spent deciphering the darker mysteries of the music may be rewarded by a transcendent experience.