"Tell The Wind"
(Potent Folk Records)
The praise comes from no less a singer-songwriter than Rosanne Cash: "Patti's new record is beautiful, her voice is so radiant and the writing is better than ever." Rosanne has made albums with easy to relate to, potential hitsongs and gripping stories, but also elusive albums full of introspective poetry. There's a simular, although less obvious difference between Patti Witten's last CD "Sycamore Tryst" -featuring prize tracks like "Black Butterfly", "Sweet Home", "Sunny Day In Terre Haute" & "Another Minute More"- and the new one "Tell The Wind", which is more of a little gem that asks for time to grow on you.
As her bio tells us, Patti's childhood was steeped in music and art. Her mother, a classical pianist, and her father, a musician, art collector and rare books dealer, met at Yale School of Music in the 1950s. The middle child of three daughters, Patti was a serious violin and flute student through high school and taught herself to play guitar from the early records of Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell and Leo Kottke. She played in a handful of post-college bands as a sideman on alto flute, backup vocals and rhythm guitar. But playing in bars wasn't easy after facing up to a drinking problem and Patti finally quit the bands and the bars after the untimely death of her husband and music partner during the painful end of their marriage.
For most of the 1990s Patti worked as a graphic artist and book illustrator while her guitar gathered dust. The long hiatus from music ended when, searching for solace during the collapse of her second marriage and the aftermath of her father's sudden death she picked up her guitar and began to write. Then fate stepped in: on the merits of a homemade audition tape she was invited to join in a songwriting workshop led by Rosanne Cash. Patti had finally found her voice as a songwriter. Over the next few years Patti's accomplishments grew quickly with the release of three independent CD's. >From Grand Prix in the Great American Song Contest, shows from Seattle to New York City, the honor of having her album liner notes written by Rosanne Cash, to TV and film placements and radio play nationwide and in Europe.
But fate was not through with Patti. Disillusioned with the life of a touring musician she would nearly call it quits in 2005. Ironically, once freed from the expectation of performing Patti began work on the songs that would become her newest album, "Tell The Wind".
And how did "Tell The Wind" turn out? It's an album full of artistic, sophisticated and somewhat poppy folkrock, a bit more alternative than its predecessor, with a few more electronical sounds too. Also more introvert. Slow to midtempo at the most. The lyrics are more poetic, abstract and impressionistic than the storytelling on "Sycamore Tryst". And I still love Patti's beautiful, sensitive voice! Have to make a comparison with Sarah Harmer this time. She plays acoustic guitar, while Rich DePaolo does almost everything else: playing bass, electric and acoustic guitar, mandolin, pedal steel guitar, percussion, organ, toy piano, trumpet, he also sings background vocals. Drummer is Bill King, additional guest musicians are Robby Aceto and Robert Powell. The production is excellent, crystal clear, perfectly mixed, all thanks to the multi-talented Rich DePaolo! (He also worked with Donna The Buffalo.)
Opening track "Encircled" circles indeed, with its long lines and self-willed phrasing. "And you can be a passenger on a train between the stations with your enigmatic, post traumatic, helpless gestures."
Probably the most rocking track on the album too. The first four songs sound a little too much alike to make a very deep or lasting impression on me though. "Almost Just As Good" (on the subject "women always want to know what a man is thinking") has another remarkable line: "Women navigate by landmarks, and paths of least resistance". Do we agree? The landmarks, O.K.... "You're So Mine" builds up to a good climax, where the electric guitar in the end almost hurts the ears.
Then the real beauty starts to unfold with resigned "No More Crying", acoustic guitar and pretty pedal steel guitar, played here by Robert Powell. Title track "Tell The Wind" is definitely the heart of the album, inventive percussion on the intro, melodiously flowing with a downright gorgeous arrangement... Just as impressive is the song that follows, "Perfect Blue", the beautiful slow ballad Rosanne Cash never wrote, showcasing Patti's vocal the best way possible. "Dandelion" is the surprising cover on the album, it shows indeed the M. Jagger / K. Richard credit, but I wanted to listen twice to be sure. It features a cool toy piano... "Blind" is sad and simply stunning -awesome (acoustic) guitar work!-, while last song "April Fool" fools around a bit with an electric guitar looping: back to the circle of the beginning!
Give this album a little time and it will turn out to be just the same kind of trusted musical companion as "Sycamore Tryst"!
Written by Johanna J. Bodde, August 2007.