Dallas’ Bobby Patterson has been a songwriter, producer, promoter, label executive, even a radio DJ, but he’s first and foremost a singer and performer, and he’s got a great new album. This week on the Austin Music Experience, he gives us the full Bobby Patterson experience…you don’t want to miss this. Also, Nicole Atkins is live in our Studio 1A with conversation and a couple of songs, and you’ll hear why she’s currently touring with Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. Plus, back and forth with the Bon Iver-related group the Rosebuds, into the archives with Iron & Wine, and more. Join us Friday at noon and again at 11pm on KUTX 98.9.
Nicole Atkins‘ songs have a strange way of breaking the fourth wall. It’s not necessarily the lyrics; instead, Atkins’ voice reaches out from the speakers and grabs your attention. She’s trained in the way Roy Orbison and many Brill Building singers were: big, sweeping gestures, swinging for the fences with each operatic crescendo.
Likewise, her career has been somewhat dramatic. She debuted in 2007 with a major label deal and budget, but with each release, Atkins gets more independent (literally and creatively). The indie-assisted Mondo Amore courted the alt-country crowd with an energetic looseness and harmony vocals from My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, but this year’s self-released Slow Phaser is a revelation in Atkins’ trajectory. She sounds completely uninhibited, matching smoky country-rock elements with neat production tricks, ranging from electronic drums to marimbas. It’s all in service to that powerhouse voice, which Atkins has developed into a dynamic instrument.
Just before kicking off a tour with Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds here in Austin, Atkins stopped by our Studio 1A with her backing band to play a few songs from Slow Phaser. “Red Ropes” was actually written during a bout of writer’s block with the Bad Seeds’ drummer Jim Sclavunos. The song definitely has some of that Bad Seeds’ dark energy, from the lyrics (“You said you’d show me the ropes / As you tied me to the tracks”) to the propulsive, almost rockabilly-like strangeness. Throughout, Atkins is at the center, weaving her potent spell.
“I think everything starts with the autobiographical,” singer-songwriter Amanda Shires told the Wall Street Journal last year, “and I start developing it into a little short story and then the character takes on a life of its own and you just follow it.” Shires’ stories are pulled from a wide range of experiences, both personal and professional. The Lubbock native has played music most of her life, first joining the Texas Playboys (as in Bob Wills’ old outfit) at age fifteen before moving on to the alt-country band Thrift Store Cowboys. Throughout, she’s lent her plaintive voice and fiddle playing, two hallmarks to a career that’s just starting to take flight.
Last year, Shires released album number five, Down Fell The Doves, and it was a personal and critical smash. The Washington Post called her songs “twisted fairy tales for adults,” which is not too far off the mark. The darkness at the heart of Doves came from a trifecta of heartbreak: a soured relationship, a broken finger, and the destruction of her fiddle, which Shires had played for fifteen years. But amidst the heartbreak came some triumph: touring the world and getting married to longtime guitarist (and fellow songwriter) Jason Isbell. Late last year, the pair paid Studio 1A a visit to sing songs from Doves, and they concluded the live performance with a heartfelt rendition of Warren Zevon’s “Mutineer”–today’s song of the day.
Catch Amanda Shires tomorrow night at the Cactus Cafe.
Befitting his outsized personality, Bobby Patterson has worked every angle in the music business: singer, songwriter, producer, DJ, and label owner. Patterson came up a teen sensation in Dallas, penning and scoring modest hits like “T.C.B. Or T.Y.A.” and “Let Them Talk.” His hard-edged soul drew comparisons to Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding, but Patterson developed his own ear and feel for a variety of styles. In the ’70s, after self-producing his own work, he teamed up with Fontella Bass, Little Johnny Taylor, and dozens more. Bluesmen like Albert King and the Fabulous Thunderbirds covered his songs, and even Jeff Tweedy of Wilco lent his voice to a Patterson original with the alt-country supergroup Golden Smog in 1995.
A new generation of listeners found Patterson on the airwaves through another medium. For years, he spun classic R&B on the Dallas station KKDA, building a big following thanks to his outlandish stories and old-school DJ interjections. After being unceremoniously let go in 2012, Patterson got back to performing and recording, and he soon linked up with Zach Ernst, guitarist with Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears and the Relatives. Ernst and Patterson recorded an album together, but it sat on the shelf for sometime while Patterson negotiated a more favorable record deal. “I’m not gonna sell my soul over it,” he told The Dallas Morning News last year, speaking like a true veteran of an industry that hasn’t always been kind to him.
Yet Patterson is a veritable survivor; a remarkable SXSW performance in March led to a new contract, and now comes his latest comeback, I Got More Soul. Recorded with an ear for his past hits, the album finds Patterson undiminished in his fire or personality, despite his seventy years of age. That experience lends true personality to the title track, today’s song of the day.
Photo by Tyler Brooks
The members of Chicago’s Twin Peaks have known each other since elementary school, so it’s not too surprising that their brand of garage rock is a little bit tighter and more nuanced than most. Last year, the young band quickly wrote and recorded their debut Sunken, a “mini-LP” that they used as an excuse to tour behind. Yet it didn’t sound slapdash; songs like the watery, dreamy “Irene” showed a band willing to stretch beyond the garage and incorporate strong melodies with their punk energy.
On August 5, Twin Peaks returns with its first proper album, Wild Onion, and the album title is illustrative of the direction the quartet took in writing and recording. With three singers and songwriters to the band’s credit, different stylistic layers reveal themselves over the course of the album. Psychedelia, pop, and punk swirl in equal measure, and their way with a hook is top-notch. “Flavor” bursts from the speakers in a distorted mess, but at its core (especially in the surprising acoustic solo) it’s sweet and sunny.