Album Review – Courtney Patton’s “What It’s Like to Fly Alone”

If your thing in music is electronic beats composed on a computer and laid beneath references to Diddy and Prada in songs that pander to the 20-something club-going set, then by all means, imbibe to your little heart’s content I guess.

But for the rest of us, we want music that speaks to who we are, that sounds like where we’re from, that is formed and pressed by human hands, brought to life by wood and wires, bred to fit our sensibilities, our frailties and joys and experiences. We want music about adults, for adults, and by adults, in tones and modes that don’t feel like an insult to us, and uplift through story, fulfill through character, and feel like they’re composed right from the pages of our own little lives that may be insignificant and non-glamourous to the hip club goers or in the grand scheme, but they’re ours dammit, and we’re living them, and they mean something to us that will never be supplanted by someone else’s ideal.

Deep, enriched storytelling is a family business for Courtney Patton. She may be Jason Eady’s wife, but it’s just as apt to say Jason Eady is Courtney Patton’s husband. Truth is this “First Songwriting Couple of Texas Country” are like two sides of the same coin since both take the business of songcraft so seriously, both help to enhance each other’s output, yet they both challenge each other to up their game, turn in a better, more touching or insightful turn of phrase, until there’s no loser aside from the bad music that’s left aside as listeners in-the-know soak up the authentic country spirit wrought in Courtney Patton’s songs.

“The stars are always shining, it’s just sometimes you can’t see them ‘tll you pull yourself away from all the lights.”

Isn’t that so true about so many things, including the great artists laboring to be seen without the benefit of big spotlights, but are often more brilliant than the big stars, even when cast among the shadows of dimly-lit songwriting bars, or the corner stages of dusty honky tonks. The above lyric is just one of the nuggets of wisdom to emerge from Courtney Patton’s latest album What It’s Like to Fly Alone, and comes specifically from the opening song “Shove” about having the humility to ask for assistance sometimes, even when pride wants to get in the way.

Courtney Patton needs no assistance from anyone in the songwriting department, but she does enlist the services of the legendary Lloyd Maines on pedal steel and guitar, long-time Gene Watson piano player Chip Bricker, along with Giovanni Carnuccio and Jerry Abrams from Jason Eady’s band to help bring the songs of What It’s Like to Fly Alone to life. Jamie Lin Wilson and Dan Tyminski also offer harmony vocals on the effort, and Larry Hopper, Mickey Braun, Owen Temple, and Matt Hillyer of 1100 Springs show up in the songwriting credits, though most of the heavy lifting is handled by Patton herself.

The album might hit its high point in the title track, which evokes such brilliant imagery, it’s hard to let go of. This record is about perseverance, overcoming adversity, lifting yourself up, and making the best of your circumstances, even if it gets a bit hairy here and there, like how sometimes heartbreak can lead to relief and freedom embodied in the story of “I’ve Got One Waiting,” brought to life in all of its misery and joy by the moan of Lloyd Maines’ steel guitar.

Similar to what has been said here about some of Jason Eady’s music, What It’s Like to Fly Alone could possibly use a bit more gas behind it at times, or perhaps some additional texturing to broaden the appeal of the music. That said, a Courtney Patton record is an exercise in self-discipline and austerity to not get drawn too outside of who she is, or what she wants to impart, which are stories of people who feel real in the mind, with musical accompaniment well within country music’s borders.

Most any catchy beat or hum-able tune can impart some sort of spark to the spirit, but it’s a select few songs that can make you soar, especially when there’s nobody else around but yourself to rely on. It’s you, and music. Courtney Patton captures quite a few of those soaring moments in What It’s Like to Fly Alone. 

1 1/2 Guns Up (7.5/10)

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