Mystery surrounds most of the early Delta blues greats, and the man we now know as Charlie Patton was no different. Even today, scholars aren't sure when he was born, whether he was black or American Indian or even how his named should be spelled.
What we do know is that the man who ended up playing guitar around Dockery Plantation after 1900 was among the most crucial recording artists in the history of American popular music. Part of this has to do with a very early career, mostly in the late 1920s, but he also brought a lyrical personality to blues. Legends like John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf took notice.
"Revenue Man Blues" has always been my favorite Patton track -- the gravelly, driving sound as harsh as asphalt in the boiling Mississippi sun. In every picked string and exclamatory aside is the heart and soul of blues. It eventually sounded different, but never better.
And if you haven't filled out your tax return, try doing it to this song...
"Lord, the revenue men is ridin', boy, you'd better look out."