Review: Derek Patton “Bright Grey”

Derek Patton “Bright Grey”

12 Apr, 2011 Matthew Forss

Derek Patton’s penchant for the finger-style guitar methods began with a plastic ukulele as a small boy.  The meeting of classical guitarist, David Walbert, and more recently, Michael Chapdelaine, inspired Derek to unleash an inherent and Biblical desire to fulfill the musical notions of his childhood.  Bright Grey features the solo and original instrumental compositions of mostly Biblically-inspired tunes played exclusively with the finger-style method on the steel-string guitar.

The poignantly-titled “Google Me” is a song dedicated to a media and entertainment guru Charles R. Boswell, Jr.  The song opens with several harp-like notes before Derek’s fingers flit around the strings like an angel floating effortlessly through the clouds.  The Internet connotations are only contained in the title, as the song is entirely instrumental and contains nothing directly related to Google.  At times, Derek does a little full-scale jamming before slipping back into the angelic finger-style playing throughout the beginning of the song.  There is enough variety to warrant a four-minute duration without burdening the ears.  Each note is precise and carefully executed by his fingering technique.

The dark and stirring “Eleventh Hour” is a musical piece inspired by the arrest and betrayal of Jesus Christ.  Again, the song is wholly instrumental.  The opening tempo features a cascade of finger-style brilliance with a limited number of notes repeated a few times.  Throughout the song, the music stops at a few points to indicate the next musical part, despite the fact it almost sounds like the end of the song several times.  The diverse sounds seem to emanate from several different guitars at once, even though there is only one guitar.  The finger-style guitar picking is slightly slower than anything from the late-Shawn Lane or Dave Matthews’ early guitarist, Tim Reynolds.  Despite the tragic nature of the song, the music encapsulates a teeming and memorable luminosity of sound that instills hope and peace that definitely lasts well beyond eleven hours.

The rousing harp-like sounds of “Love” are a cascade of full sound.  Patton’s finger-style technique provides a few striking notes played a little louder than the other strings, which provides a foreground melody quite distinct from the background.  The harp-like sounds resonate as a flow of undulating notes with little in the way of impediments or gross exaggerations.  Patton’s “Love” is a song inspired by a Biblical verse about love,  signified as a divine gift from the Heavens, which may explain the harp-like overtones.  Whether intentional or not, Derek’s “Love” is a song about beauty, bliss, and life.  As a whole, “Love” is the most musically consistent song with only slight variations throughout.

“Apes In The Rotunda” is inspired by the brilliancy and idiocy of government officials.  The opening strums bleed into a jamming solo of harp-like sounds, neo-folk classicism, and a bit of acoustic Appalachia with reverberating strings.  The mix of musical styles signifies the many influences from other songs on the album.  The last few seconds of the song sounds like another jam is about to occur, but all of a sudden the guitar stops.  All in all, the song ends in an appropriate fashion without dragging on.  However, the different sounds, melodies, and rhythms make “Apes In The Rotunda” a perfect song all-around.  The title track is eloquently titled to signify the return to music after a fifteen-year hiatus.  In essence, the music is pensive, reflective, and sparkling with life.  Some of the notes shine through more than others over the lighter strumming.  As the jamming parts take over, the lower notes echo a deeper sense of thought.  The higher notes are joyous, but reflect a sense of inner pain from Patton not returning to music sooner.

Derek Patton’s new release Bright Grey showcases a relative complexity of musical sounds, textures, and colors on the steel-string, finger-style acoustic guitar.  The entire album is about seventy-two minutes long, with most songs averaging between three and six minutes.  The absence of other instruments does not lessen the impact of the recording.  In fact, the solo finger-style guitar work resembles a harp, kora, guitar, piano, and harpsichord.  Derek is a one-man band and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this release. Anyone with an interest in New Age, instrumental, finger-style guitar, Christian music, and folk music with a comparable affinity for Tim Reynolds, Matthew Montfort, the late-Shawn Lane, or Bob Brozman should acquire Bright Grey.

Review by Matthew Forss
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)