High Sheriff Blues

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Overview

Here’s an absolutely beautiful song from Patton, in the same vein as Tom Rushen Blues, which he’d recorded earlier. Only months after this recording, Patton would die. The story of the song is that, weeks prior, Patton and his wife, Bertha Lee, had gotten in such a tumultuous fight that they were incarcerated in Belzoni, Mississippi. From Vocalion Records, W. R. Calaway bailed both of them from jail and brought them to New York City, where Patton recorded this.

It’s quite remarkable from a recording standpoint also since it’s one of the few recordings he made with a company which made nice records; most of Patton’s recordings (like many other blues musicians of the era such as Blind Joe Reynolds) were with Paramount, at their Grafton, Wisconsin studio; nearly all records from this studio are terribly scratchy and difficult to discern. With this Vocalion recording, Patton’s booming baritone voice and subtler guitar style are wonderfully digestible in the ways they deserve to be heard.

Workstation

Open G — DGDGBD
1st Fret

Get in trouble at Belzoni
There ain’t no use a screamin’ and cryin’
Get in trouble in Belzoni
There ain’t no use a screamin’ and cryin’
Mr. Will will take you back
To Belzoni jail house flyin’

Le’ me tell you folksies
How he treated me
Le’ me tell you folksies
How he treated me
An’ he put me in a cellar
Just as dark as it could be

There I laid one evenin’
Mr. Purvis was standin’ ’round
There I laid one evenin’
Mr. Purvis was standin’ ’round
Mr. Purvis told Mr. Will
To let poor Charley down

It takes booze and blues, Lord
To carry me through
Takes booze and blues, Lord
To carry me through
But it did seem like years
In a jail house where there is no boo’

I got up one mornin’
Feelin’ awe, hmm
I got up one mornin’
Feelin’ mighty bad, hmm
An’ it might not a been
Them Belzoni jail I had
(Blues I had, boys)

While I was in trouble
Ain’t no use a screamin’
When I was in prison
It ain’t no use a screamin and cryin’
Mr. Purvis the onliest man
Could ease that pain of mine

Song History

30 January 1934
New York City
Vocalion 02680

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