ESMÉ PATTERSON – Woman To Woman (XtraMile)

Woman2WomanThe answer song is hardly a new idea, examples date back to the 40s although the form was most popular during the 50s and 60s. Generally, the ‘answer’ version would be a response to the original, usually, but not always, sung from the perspective of the opposite sex, sometimes from the perspective of the character in the ‘call’ version, and were, for the most part, to be found in the country and rock n roll genres. A couple of years ago, Dave Rotheray took the concept and ran with it on ‘Answer Songs’, an album which, featuring a variety of guest vocalists from the folk world, offered comebacks to a collection of well known hits written in the persona of the character in the original, such as Mrs Jones , Bobby McGee and Jolene. Now, Colorado country singer-songwriter Patterson has done a similar thing, only hers are all from the point of view of the women in the songs she’s selected.

As with Rotheray, Jolene is among them, bringing her infectiously idiosyncratic voice (a sort of cross between a drawl and a squeak coated in sand and honey) to ‘Never Chase A Man’, a catchy, upbeat slide guitar driven country pop number where she advises Dolly that any man who’ll cheat on her isn’t worth bothering with as she sings “You sit around and cry over him and you tell me you’re here to beg, well excuse me for sayin’, but that man ain’t worth the time you take ‘cause your man don’t mean a thing to me, he keeps leanin’ in.”

Her targets are an eclectic choice, the album opening with the choppy, chirpy, ‘Valentine’, sung in the voice of Elvis Costello’s Alison who, with a handclappy musical bounce reminiscent of Sheryl Crow, informs her judgemental, jealous that “I will make love to whomever I want, so give your blessings or give me your curses but I’ll be just fine”. Crow also seems to be the musical inspiration behind the musically similarly styled ‘Tumbleweed’, a response to Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Loretta’ that was the initial spark to the album.

Having already been the subject of one answer song in Lydia Murdock’s ‘Superstar’, Billie Jean is in similarly indignant mood on ‘What Do You Call A Woman?’, a plangent country blues with White Stripes echoes, pointedly asking the responsibility-shirking Jacko “what do you call a woman when she’s lyin’ in your bed? If you make love, ain’t she your lover?”, adding “call me what you want but let him call you father.” Often victims in the originals, Patterson’s versions are strong, self-aware women, the Latin swaying ‘Oh Let’s Dance’ featuring an unapologetically flirtatious Lola, Eleanor Rigby greeting her death with grace and courage in the strings-kissed sunny ‘Bluebird’, Leadbelly’s (‘Goodnight’) Irene telling her lover to harbour no romantic delusions because “I’ve done wrong, I cheat and I lie, I’m not going to heaven when I die…Heaven’s not a dream, so wake up darling” on the slow swaying doo wop ‘A Dream’.

The only exceptions would seem to be ‘The Glow’, a slide and strings adorned response to ‘Caroline No’ where Patterson’s protagonist seems to telling her ex that, even though she’s cut off her hair and got a new love, “you’re gone until I fall asleep, and no one knows why but me”, and the waltzing bluesy ‘Louder Than The Sound’ where The Band’s Evangeline loses her mind as she watches her man drown.

For her last retort, the sparsely guitar backed ‘Wildflower ‘closes the album with Dylan’s Ramona having moved down south “to escape the crowd”, bend back to the earth and find herself , writing to her old flame to say that, if he ever wants “to come and be cryin’“ to her , then, “if someday ever happened to be today, come on down here, darlin, and see me.”   With her rejoinders giving an often feminist voice to these characters, Patterson’s counter intelligence has crafted a clever and extremely listenable album. It deserves a warm response.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

Esmé sings ‘The Glow’:

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