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William Stout's Legends Of The British Blues: Ottilie Patterson

The US artist’s ongoing celebration of the most important British blues musicians continues with his portrait of a Northern Irish revelation.

Before Ottilie Patterson arrived on the scene, the very idea of a soft-spoken Northern Irish white woman earnestly duplicating classic African- American blues styles must have seemed absolutely outrageous, if not quite simply absurd. She sang beautifully, with an earthy specificity and empathetic understanding of the musical genre, however, which muted any potential criticism. Early in her career, The San Francisco Examiner excitedly proclaimed her to be “the world’s only Irish blues singer”. And later, as she became established, the woman born in the small County Down town of Comber on January 31, 1932 proved that geography was no boundary when it came to blowing perceptions out of the water and making the blues her own: George Melly would later rate her alongside no lesser talent than Bessie Smith.

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