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KPLU All Blues host John Kessler has expanded "The Blues Time Machine," which has been a popular segment on his weekend blues shows. The weekly series tracks one great blues song through history - from its earliest recording to its latest and sometimes, with some surprising interpretations. "The Blues Time Machine" airs on KPLU on Fridays at 12:10 p.m. during the "Blue Plate Special," and on All Blues Saturdays and Sundays at 8 and 11 p.m.

'High Water Everywhere' and the father of Delta Blues

Charley Patton

Charley Patton is considered by many to be the father of Delta Blues. What does that actually mean? A combination of location, timing and talent, put him at the leading edge of the new musical direction of the 1920s. He was one of, if not the first, to play what we might recognize as blues.

Patton was a prolific songwriter, a powerful singer, with an aggressive guitar style that had him popping bass strings, banging on the box, and playing behind his back. He brought a bit of vaudeville into the blues as well, and his recordings are laced with vocal asides, as if two people were performing. This passion, talent and intensity made him one of the best-known traveling performers of the time,  perhaps the first real “blues man”. Among the future blues stars who learned directly from him were John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf.

“High Water Everywhere” was a song Patton recorded in 1929, written about the great Mississippi flood of 1927. It was the most destructive flood in America’s history, with water levels even higher then the disastrous 2010 Mississippi floods.

The aftermath of the flood was one of the things that drove many African-Americans to move to northern cities.

Rory Block has spent much of her career painstakingly transcribing and recreating the intricate guitar work of blues originals like Robert Johnson, Fred McDowell and Memphis Minnie. In the 1960’s she left home at 15 to seek out the living legends of blues—John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis and Son House. She recorded “High Water Everywhere” on her 2005 CD From The Dust.

Guitar phenomenon Joe Bonamassa has always paid attention to his blues roots.

While he has concentrated on original rock, he stays connected to the blues by including at least one or two blues songs on his CDs, from people like B.B. King, Albert Collins and Buddy Guy. His 2006 version of “High Water Everywhere” is a complete re-orchestration of Patton’s composition, laced with counter melodies and moody harmonies. This is a cool live performance of Bonamassa and his acoustic version of the tune:

Here are the complete versions of “High Water Everywhere” tracked through time:

Charley Patton “High Water Everywhere, Pts. 1 & 2”  1929

charley patton.mp3
Charley Patton “High Water Everywhere, Pts. 1 & 2” 1929

Rory Block “High Water Everywhere”  2005

rory block.mp3
Rory Block “High Water Everywhere” 2005

Joe Bonamassa  “High Water Everywhere” 2006

joe bonamassa.mp3
Joe Bonamassa “High Water Everywhere” 2006

John has worked as a professional bassist for 20 years, including a 15 year stint as Musical Director of the Mountain Stage radio program. John has been at KNKX since 1999 where he hosts “All Blues”, is producer of the BirdNote radio program, and co-hosts “Record Bin Roulette”. John is also the recording engineer for KNKX “In-Studio Performances”. Not surprisingly, John's main musical interests are jazz and blues, and he is still performing around Seattle.