tue 27/06/2017

CD: Esmé Patterson - Woman to Woman | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Esmé Patterson - Woman to Woman

CD: Esmé Patterson - Woman to Woman

Denver songwriter explores the lives of the under-sung heroines of contemporary pop

A fascinating and beautifully realised work that never sacrifices listenability for its central conceit
'Woman to Woman' is as clever, angry, witty and diverse as the stories it tells

Woman to Woman, the second solo album from Denver songwriter and former Paper Bird front woman Esmé Patterson, has an origin story almost as interesting as the music. Teaching herself to play Townes Van Zandt’s “Loretta” during some down time on tour, Patterson found herself getting frustrated at the song’s depiction of a passive bar-room girl so in awe of the great songwriter that she drops everything any time he passes through and “don’t cry” when he’s gone. She put down her guitar, picked up her pen and the result was “Tumbleweed”: a funny and furious riposte in which Patterson, playing the role of Loretta, cuts her suitor down to size. “What about the way I want to be loved?” she demands. “I’ll keep my dancing shoes on long after you’re gone.”

“Tumbleweed” became a whole album’s worth of stories from the points of view of the under-sung women of 20th-century pop – an album which, driven by Patterson’s empathy and eye for detail, is as clever, angry, witty and diverse as the women whose stories it tells. From its playful opening track – a kiss-off in which Elvis Costello’s “Allison” tells her mawkish ex to “give me your blessings or give me your curses, I’ll be just fine” – to the wistful reminisces of the Ramona of Bob Dylan’s imaginings that close the album in “Wildflower”, Woman to Woman is a fascinating and beautifully realised work that never sacrifices listenability for its central conceit.

In between Patterson introduces the listener to characters that, despite the limitations of Americana as a genre, spring to life fully realised and distinct. And so a sympathetic, yet world-weary Jolene talks some sense into the girl that’s begging of her not to take her man on the calypso-esque “Never Chase a Man”; while Billie Jean rages against the man who would dismiss her and her child on one of the album’s most powerful songs. Elsewhere Lola unapologetically flirts with the man to whom her existence will become the next morning’s joke, and Eleanor Rigby feeds the bluebirds on her windowsill and quietly reflects on a life well lived.

Overleaf: hear "The Glow", Esmé Patterson's response to the Beach Boys' "Caroline, No"


Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters