Storied Places CD - Milan
The most recent recording from LA singer/songwriter Kenneth Pattengale is a varied rootsy affair. Pattengale has let slip that he aspires to traipse down the musical path trodden by Loudon Wainwright, Tom Waits, Joe Henry, and Gillian Welch, and Storied Places is by turns reflective of each of these influences, if mostly on the QT. Although, stripped of the folk, country, and antique blues patina that shades many of the cuts here, I hear as much or more Randy Newman (piano ballad alert, for the averse) in the music of Storied Places. What goes missing, unfortunately, are Wainwright’s wit and Newman’s bite.
The strong hook of this recording rests in its first three cuts. Number two of these, “Freckles,” is a blues lament of dreams and illusion, dragged liberally through a Louisiana swamp. “Dig This Hole” follows immediately, a blues tune in the same vein, but Pattengale’s vocal makes it redolent of 1970s Tom Waits at his most stylized. Opener “Charlie” is a (probably overly) sentimental, light folksong, Pattengale admonishing his future young daughter to be “...kind and loving, fresh and bright...,” just like dad, you know. Still, Pattengale’s delivery, all open-hearted sincerity, saves the tune from sap-dom. Nothing else quite lives up on Storied Places, but “Memoirs of an Owned Dog” is a clever and bittersweet heart-tugger, a letter from a dead dog to his former owner, which may or may not be metaphor.
By Michael Meade