Review: Derek Patton “Bright Grey”

Derek Patton “Bright Grey”

12 Apr, 2011 Matt Warnock

Acoustic Finger-Style guitar, or American Finger-Style as it is sometimes called, has a long and storied history, producing some of the most talented and accomplished guitarists of the past 50 years.  Names such as Michael Hedges, Phil Keaggy, Michael Chapdelaine and many more have helped to build the genre into what it is today.  Now, a new generation of up and coming finger-pickers is taking over, carrying the torch into the future as the finger-style movement shows no signs of slowing down in the face of the changing music industry and tough competition from other genres and media choices.  One of the brightest guitarists to bring his creative juices to the finger-style genre is Derek Patton, and his love of the instrument and high-level of musicianship can be heard throughout his album Bright Grey.

The album features the talented guitarist playing up-tempo finger-burning tracks, such as the album’s opener “Google Me,” with its rapidly plucked arpeggios that paint a beautiful sonic picture to open the piece and the record.  But there are also softer moments where Patton digs deep into his musical palette and brings forth a subtle, sensitive approach to the instrument and his compositions.  “El Amor De Mi Vida” is a fine example of this style of playing and writing.  Effectively using arpeggiated chords, artificial harmonics and a mixture of chords and single-note runs alongside some soft yet effective right-hand percussion, the guitarist brings the listener deep into his musical consciousness, allowing one to experience the acoustic guitar in a different manner than they may be used to.  While many people enjoy a barn-burning solo guitar piece, it is a sign of true musicianship when an artist knows just the right time to introduce a softer piece, and Patton is one such player.

There are also plenty of exciting, fast-paced moments on the album.  The palm-muted intro to “Faith” provides yet another technical approach to the instrument, and one that is soft yet intense at the same time.  As Patton layers melodies upon melodies, with a bass-line, melody and arpeggiated chords running at the same time, he leads the listener along a musical path that starts soft and builds throughout the piece’s 2:47 length.  Again, it is the slight and slowly planned changes in the piece that bring out a maximum amount of emotion from the work.  “Simple Trust” is another great example of this approach, where the melody is allowed to breathe and grows naturally, using a strong sense of time and rhythmic variation to create excitement along the way.

Whether he is playing a lightning-fast run, using right-hand percussion or slowing things down to a mellow pace, Patton takes every chance he can to dig deeper into the piece that he is playing.  There is never the sense that he is rushing through a line, or that anything was written for the sake of showing off his technical facility.  It’s just the opposite.  Whereas many instrumental guitarists think flash first and melody-emotion second, Patton’s pieces are always written from the emotional ground up, with the moments of technical brilliance adding to the piece, such as the slurred runs in “Eleventh Hour,” rather than being the focus of the music itself.  Fans of the finger-style genre will find plenty to enjoy with this album, and it will make a nice introduction to newcomers as well, as it showcases the many different sonic possibilities that American Finger-Style offers from both a technical and musical standpoint.

Review by Matthew Warnock
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)