Review: Derek Patton “Bright Grey”

Derek Patton “Bright Grey”

14 Apr, 2011 Vinny Marini

There is something special about the sounds of acoustic finger-style guitar.  Derek Patton has put together an album of 16 original songs written specifically for this style of playing.  On Bright Grey, you get Mr. Patton and his guitar; no electronic assistance from drum machines or synthesizers, no attempts at vocals.  Just pure guitar. The songs also feel complete.  No fading out because the artist was unsure of the melody or how to complete their musical thoughts.  Patton has chosen to not overlay multiple guitars to fill out the sound.  No, that is done by his mastery of the guitars he is playing (he uses 6 different models of guitar on the album).  No matter which guitar he uses the combination of finger-picking, strumming and even wrapping the guitar with his knuckles for emphasis, Patton’s music explodes from the speakers filling the room and your head with vivid images.

The songs are emotionally charged one second, soft and breezy the next.  There is inspiration behind each of the songs and Patton lets the listener in.  As he writes in the liner notes, “I share the following descriptions, not as moral sermons, but simply as explanations, and in some cases to connect the drama in the music to the pictured scene running through my mind when writing and playing them.”  A nice inclusion, as normally the lyrics of a song will allow you to see the picture.  “Eleventh Hour” rises and falls as Patton composes to the events surrounding the arrest and betrayal of Jesus and it is one of the standouts on Bright Grey.  At times, his fingers are frenetic on the strings while there is a second line of calm notes.   Every listener will interpret these quiet passages differently.

His deep faith is experienced throughout the album and latent in the inspiration of his songs. Nowhere is this more evident than the three pieces listed on the album jacket under the heading “These Three Remain.”  Taken from 1 Corinthians 13:13, the famous quotation reads “And now these three remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  Patton offers up his artistic interpretation of these three virtues. “Faith” is uptempo and bright, whereas “Hope” features a melody played in the lower registers.  It begins slowly and darker, but opens to a more glorious tone.  Finally, “Love” begins with a flurry of notes the sound building.  Each stanza punctuated by the snapping of the lower strings.  The bible verse reads “…God is Love.”  Patton plays the flurry of strings at the same time as he picks out the melody, and it continues to burst forth into another transition of notes until finally it all fades on one final note.

“El Amor De Mi Vida,” written for his wife, is plated in the classical style, using all of the strings in a constant wash of sound and images.  “Apes In The Rotunda” is a swipe at politicians and “the age old battle between brilliance and idiocy.” The song begins at a fast tempo and only gets faster as it continues.  The notes crisp and clean, the sound on the album is superb.  The guitar is mic’d to let you hear and feel each note being played.

It is safe to say that Derek Patton has mastered his art form.  On Bright Grey, he shares his musical brushstrokes with the listener, painting pictures with the tones, transitions, fingering and strumming techniques he uses to bring forth the music from his brain to his fingers to the strings to your ears.  Enjoy this work of art.  It is well worth the money and time spent.

Review by Vinny “Bond” Marini
Rating:  4 Stars (out of 5)