Those intimately familiar with the name Courtney Patton will need no coaxing to pay attention to a new album from her. No long-winded critical assessment is necessary, they pre-ordered this thing weeks ago, and much attention and love will be given to it for the weeks and months to come. Her extraordinary songwriting along with the organic and grassroots way she approaches her career has created a personal connection with fans of her in Texas where she’s from, and in listening rooms well far beyond.
Though performing solo with an acoustic guitar is how Courtney Patton is mostly known out there on the road, Electrostatic is a full-bodied musical experience that in many ways is reminiscent of some of those peak Rosanne Cash records from the 80s that were produced by Rodney Crowell—Seven Year Ache and the like. Everything is centered around the songs themselves, and the music isn’t as concerned about being country as it is about being emblematic and respectful to the sentiments found in the writing.
This gives rise to more soulful and soaring moments compared to the more intimate and acoustic ones of previous Courtney Patton records. As part of Patton’s effort with husband Jason Eady to keep songwriters and their fans sane during the pandemic with live streaming events called Sequestered Songwriters, Courtney experienced a retrospective with early songwriting influences, and you hear those influences interwoven in the moments of Electrostatic.
“Night Like The Old Days” is written very much like a country song, but it feels like 80s adult contemporary, and even name checks Shenandoah and James Taylor appropriately. You could imagine “So Flies The Crow” coming out of the radio of your mom’s Chevrolet Caprice Classic station wagon in 1987. This retroactive approach to the music results in a moodiness it may otherwise fail to achieve with the standard singer/songwriter country approach.
And if or when you get worried that this album may reach outside of your sensibilities, it reels you back in. The way Heather Stalling’s fiddle comes in on the back half of “Never On the Hurting End” about those lucky SOBs who’ve never had their heart broke really completes the feeling. Though Patton has been quick to say this isn’t exactly a pandemic record, “Hold Fast” encapsulates the feelings we all reckoned with during the peaks of lockdowns and disease, while “Electrostatic” dealing with the death of her sister nearly 20 years ago adds important reflections on passings that we’ve all had to deal with at a higher frequency.
But where Electrostatic really starts to hit it’s stride is with the song “Dog Gettin’ Blues,” speaking to all of us and our frustrations that come from self-assessments and personal struggles in very reverberative and relatable terms, resolving in a sense of gratefulness those of us on the right side of the ground deserve to have for our little victories in life. “Do You Feel Love” reaches the peak of the “Courtney Patton with a band” concept that went into this record. A soulful feel has always been present to Patton’s music, but on this album, it’s exposed and you can hear it palpably.
And perhaps the peak of the songwriting, the soulful approach, and the emotion this album boasts is captured in the brilliantly-written and emotionally-roiling “Casualty.” If you want to know how to successfully accomplish an emotional crescendo in a song, study this composition intently with the way the melody and writing resolves in a “moment,” and how the harmonies of Gordy Quist and Kelley Mickwee seem to be sung an octave too high at first but reveal themselves as perfect. It all make this a song you will enjoy over and over.
If you miss the more intimate singer/songwriter version of Courtney Patton, she also hearkens back to that in the final song on the album called “This Heart.” But Electrostatic is more about putting electrified elements behind Courtney Patton’s songs that have always had more plasticity than they’ve been given credit for. They could be rendered in virtually any setting, approach, or genre, and still resonate. Because ultimately when it comes to Courtney Patton, it’s the song that is the center of attention, because that’s what takes you somewhere, teaches you something, and sticks with you well after the music ends.
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