Playing with my talented friend Libby Koch at one of, if not the, biggest rodeo in the world.
Patterson Barrett moved to Austin shortly after appearing on Jerry Jeff Walker’s eponymous first release on MCA records, playing pedal steel, dobro, and guitar (including the song “L.A. Freeway”). Not long after arriving in Austin, he formed the band Partners In Crime, which included Buddy and Julie Miller, releasing one album on their own label, Criminal Records.
In the years since, Patterson produced some of Hal Ketchum’s earliest demos, served in Al Kooper’s back-up band, and performed before 10,000 festival-goers as Chuck Berry’s pianist. He accompanied Nancy Griffith on Austin City Limits, legendary Austin singer Lou Ann Barton in music clubs around the country, and Buddy Miller on his Your Love And Other Lies CD, and more recently, on the Buddy & Jim CD. He has a continuing collaboration with Stephanie Urbina Jones as her accompanist, musical director and producer, including work with her Honky Tonk Mariachi project, appearing on the Grand Ole Opry multiple times.
In addition to years of supporting other talented artists in every format imaginable, Barrett has maintained a career as a recording artist in his own right:
I Must Be Dreaming (2008), includes contributions from Buddy Miller, Julie Miller, and Deborah Holland (of Animal Logic). On it, he explores some of the aspects of dreams and other alternate realities of life and death that touch us all.
Patterson followed I Must Be Dreaming with the release of his sophmore effort “When I Was Your Age…” in 2012. The music on the disc is solidly Americana, with elements of folk, rock and country evident. Barrett once again performs most of the instrumental duties, wielding an army of musical hardware, from the staples (guitars, keyboards, bass) to the slightly more exotic (pedal steel, accordion, and balalaika), but there are notable guest contributions. Bonnie Bramlett lends her unmistakable vocals to the rocking abandon of lead-off track “Come Back To Me,” and she joins the equally iconic Gurf Morlix to sing on the gospel-meets-gravel-road chorus of “Nobody’s Fault But Your Own.” Morlix also adds licks and a solo to “In Your Own Voice,” leaving his unique imprint on the song. And the inspiration himself, Barrett’s son Emerson Wells-Barrett, played drums on the cautionary (but completely fictional) tale “The Wrong Way.”
His 2018 release, Give 'em What They Want", includes plenty of guest appearances by friends and peers as well. Featured performers include Jim Lauderdale, Walt Wilkins, and Stuart Duncan, in addition to Gurf Morlix and Buddy Miller, who share vocals with Barrett on the single “3 Young Alleycats.” The song is a reminiscence of the days gone by when Morlix, Miller, and Barrett were knocking around Austin. In it, the three declare wistfully, “The universe will never be the same again,” but then muse “How long we can howl at the moon, no one can tell.”
The music on this CD continues in the Americana vein, with nods to influences as diverse as The Band, Little Feat, and Gram Parsons, all of whom Barrett cites as inspirations. At times the songs lean toward the country side of things, as in the slyly humorous, two-step inducing “Elephant In The Room” (with Lauderdale on harmony vocal.) But there are also introspective singer-songwriter moments, notably in “If I Only Knew How,” with Barrett finding himself unable to help those close to him who need it the most.
In addition to those already mentioned, Patterson cites Neil Young and country-rock pioneers Poco and the Flying Burrito Brothers as his early influences, as well as soul stalwarts such as Sam and Dave, The Temptations, and Marvin Gaye. His music has been compared to John Hiatt, The Band (whose song “Sleeping” he lovingly covers), and Josh Ritter, among others.
Raised mostly in a Washington, D.C. suburb, I finished high school in NYC. After graduating from high school, I perused the musicians wanted section of local publication the Village Voice, and soon found myself living communally with a band on a farm in upstate New York.
The band was called "Dufine," named for it’s inexplicably charismatic leader, Jeff Dufine. He somehow managed to get the band an audition of sorts with a fella named Jerry Jeff Walker, who was in the area to do some recording after recently relocating to Austin, Texas. The band ended up playing on about half the songs on Jerry Jeff’s self-titled MCA release, which included the somewhat-of-a-hit-single "LA Freeway."
Wow—here I was, 18 or so, and things were going more or less according to plan. If I was lucky enough to be listening at the right time on the right equipment, I could actually hear myself playing pedal steel guitar (primitively) on the radio! We were even able to see the song included for sale on late night television as part of a K-tel hits collection. Dufine-The Band- rode this wave of enthusiasm to California, settling first in the LA area, and then in the Russian River area north of San Francisco.
After a couple of years of not becoming a huge recording star as part of Dufine, I became a little restless with the situation, and I couldn’t help remembering how Jerry Jeff and the other Austinites on the recording sessions had talked so lovingly of their cosmic-cowboy oasis down in Texas. So, my good friend and band-mate Jonathan Simons and I gave the group our notice and acquired a "drive-away" car to take us to Texas.
We spent the first night cooking on a fire at the Mansfield Dam camping area, and the next few days sleeping on the ground at Jerry Jeff’s spread (only a mile or two from where I live now!). We soon had a duplex with no furniture other than a mattress and a stereo, and a few days later my good friend Jon succumbed to years of genetic and parental programming, leaving Texas to go back to school. (Dr. Simons now has his own psychology practice in South Carolina and plays a mean blues harp and guitar in area clubs).
As for me, I felt somewhat at home here in Austin, amid the amazing energy of the burgeoning music scene. And I still do.