Jim Patton & Sherry Brokus – Big Red Gibson
This set is hammered into the ground of traditional-sounding folk music. No showboating just standard approaches to songs that could’ve been written in the 1930s. “Dead End Town” could’ve been sung by Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, or Hamilton Camp. Or it could be by the Grateful Dead or John Denver. It has a nice melodic structure with engaging lyrics that spell out exactly what the Austin-based duo with vocalist Jim Patton means. So, many people live in such places. With the addition of his partner Sherry Brokus’ vocals, the performances have a laid-back yet exciting & inspired manner.
Produced by Ron Flynt (rhythm guitar/keys/bass/bgv) in Austin the duo avoids the pitfalls of mediocrity in songwriting & tries quite well to shape something story-wise. “Big Red Gibson,” is about a guitar & Patton just outlays a personal tale of himself & someone named Rita & what could’ve been. This should relate to thousands of ears.
The tunes float in a folky manner but are edgy & rockier than previous efforts. This 11-cut, 32-minute CD Big Red Gibson (Drops Oct 13–Berkalin Records) is Patton & Brokus’ 7th collection. Songs have a more Byrds/Tom Petty soundscape.
They really hit their stride with “Road That I Never Go Down,” which is memorable. Not everything is going to resonate, some are standard, but none are silly, radical, or controversial. The songs all have something to say without too many cliches. Patton has an excellent backup voice but as a lead singer, he’s not always compelling. More intonation would add color to his performance.
Patton’s voice is close to the storytelling tone of Eric Andersen but far more indulgent than the late David Blue who managed to make a near-monotone voice work for him. This is what happens when a folk voice tries to rock but doesn’t have that Elvis power, Rocky Burnette tonality, or absorbing quirkiness of a Dylan. The only folky other than Dylan who does have an effective rock voice but seldom uses it is surprisingly Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary.
This is a commendable effort because it has many wonderful songs that don’t try to impress as much as they please. I think Sherry should be featured more prominently because her voice is a pleasant contrast to Jim’s. With “Janey Has a Locket,” the tune spills from the speakers in typical 60s pop style. Jim manages to gently touch upon catchy melodies that may have been born in another era, but he decorates each with a cool fabrication. “Wild, Dumb & Unsatisfied,” is the most challenging lyrically but the psychedelic lead guitar notes chomp along which allows it to sound nostalgic.
The most beautiful tune is “I Still Believe In You,” which Jim sings wonderfully. Superb ballad.
Highlights – “Dead End Town,” “Big Red Gibson,” “Road That I Never Go Down,” “Pretty Dark World,” “Janey Has a Locket” & “I Still Believe In You.”
Musicians – Jim Patton (vocals/acoustic rhythm guitar), Sherry Brokus (vocals), BettySoo (vocals), Cordy Lavery (lead 6-12 string guitars), Steve McCarthy (drums) & Eric Hisaw (lead guitar on “Janey Has a Locker”).
B&W image courtesy of their Facebook. Lyrics are printed on inner panels. CD @ Bandcamp & http://pattonbrokus.com/index.html + https://americanahighways.org/2022/06/01/review-jim-patton-sherry-brokus-going-the-distance/