Nerak Roth Patterson is a sometimes-guitar-mate to Guy Davis. But Patterson is a fine songwriter and singer in his own right. His first album was released in 2004, and featured 11 originals; his latest, Brown Angel, has 12 competent blues originals.
The title track is a thoroughly satisfying meat-and-potatoes Chicago shuffle. In addition to Patterson showing off his stinging blues guitar talents, he provides ample room for his keyboard friend, Chief Johnny Lonesome, to also solo.
The second tune, “Everybody Counts,” is a funky message song dedicated to Patterson’s mom’s advice. By the third song, “She Loves Me Too,” Patterson is confident enough to let the band gently swing from Lonesome’s delightful piano into Patterson’s twisting tones and bends.
With no supporting band, “One Night Stand” features Patterson’s stark string work paired with esoteric vocals that come through a harp microphone. There is an elegant, almost classical, guitar workout on “Walking Alone,” on which Patterson demonstrates that he is not merely a one-trick blues guitarist: He is a musician who has studied many styles and approaches that effortlessly flow through his fingers.
On “Hotsauce N Love,” a straight-forward slow blues melancholy, Patterson enlists his travelin’ friend, Guy Davis, to play high-end country harmonica in tandem with guitar and piano. This song was recorded in Patterson’s basement at the time of the death of Davis’ father, Ossie. Patterson told me he brought the studio to his house and recorded live and unrehearsed because he wanted to catch the actual real-life mood of that unfortunate situation.
Rappin’ blues and a “Memphis Soul Stew”-styled introduction start off “Raisin’ Hell.”
The final three tunes capture different blues styles, from blues-rock on “Brown Angel Blues” to “Bluesdriver,” a late-night trucker’s lament. Patterson should know, because that’s his day job—driving the big rigs across the country, listening to and feelin’ the blues, and those real life experiences come through very clear.
Patterson’s guitar style is very reminiscent of Otis Rush’s thick-toned Gibson. Like a Rush solo, he starts with rich bends and then blends in his own high-string, dive-bomber runs. Combined with his rich voice and intelligent band arrangements, you have a very solid sophomore release in Brown Angel.