Artist Dressed Box of Blues with Imagination
6-pound, $179 set earns nomination
by Sonia Murray
In an awards show full of singers and musicians, Grammy nominee Susan Archie can sit completely silently and still blow the room away with her talent.

Oh, the 43-year-old Candler Park resident does sing, but only for fun, and in the background mostly; her primary duty in a local "wackabooty" band, HAIRNET, is the bass guitar.

What produced her first Grammy Award nomination is "Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues: The Worlds of Charley Patton," a 6-pound, $179 box set that dwarfs the other art-rock and field recordings Archie has worked on as a graphic artist.

What made it stand out among the sleighful of annual Christmas musical offerings from much bigger record companies with far more recognizable artists? Try 130 pages nicely filled out with 11 pages of stickers, seven CD sleeves packaged to look like album sized vinyl records, six pages of posters and a paperback version of a doctoral thesis about Patton - all built around a barely known blues artist of whom there is only one existing photograph.

It's contending with Rhino's "Like Omigod! The '80s Pop Culture Box (Totally)," among others, for the Grammy for best boxed or special limited-edition package.

All that went into the set was requested by Dean Blackwood and the late John Fahey, co-founders of Revenant Records (described by Sound Collector magazine as "fetishists and vinyl-philes"). But it was Archie and her assistants Henry Owings (of Chunklet magazine fame) and Potsy Duncan who made their suggestions something we could see and breezily navigate, as well as sculpt a bicep with.

It's a skill the West Palm Beach, Florida native has honed since she used her Florida State University bachelor's degree in photography as a springboard into corporate communications in New York City, helping several Fortune 500s make the transition from traditional pasteboard design to digital. Before she left New York for Atlanta to be closer to her girlfriend's parents, Archie also helped IBM's product catalogs get digital.

"That's really how I've been able to do what I do," she explains. "It's not my creativity as much as it's the computer, technical and process management skills I've learned over the years." Then she adds playfully: "Plus my perfectionist, world-class standards, attention to detail, dedication, obsessiveness, etc., etc."

Nine years of freelancing for tiny labels such as Revenant and Table of the Elements has certainly appeased the artistic itch in Archie. But the fan of all types of music, obscure, popular and otherwise - also has some big ideas for particular favorites like Atlanta rap duo OutKast and singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, if solicited.

Something in a 15-pounder, perhaps?