Most of my favorite songs from the upcoming album by Bill Patton are originals, but the man has a way with covers that has revived my enthusiasm about artists playing each other's songs. That ability to make you feel nostalgia for the original version, but somehow forget all about that version by the end of the new interpretation, because it has just turned into something else.
Bill is a familiar face in Seattle, playing with too many bands to count (though a few of them are the Fleet Foxes, Ghosts I've Met, and Mike Dumovich), usually sitting in on pedal steel or electric guitar. I may have thought of him primarily as a guitarist had I not been one of the lucky ones who ended up with one of the circulating CD-Rs of his new solo album. Little did I know that before I'd even gotten all the way through the first track, "Alchemy," Bill would be my new hero. Hanging on every word, because the words are so smart and authentic and cutting.
But back to the covers, my personal favorite of the three (how could it not be) on his yet to be released second album is J-Lo's "Jenny From the Block", which he's transformed into a spooky, bluesy ballad that highlights the absurdity of lyrics like "I'm real, even on Oprah" by slowing it down, surrounding it by perfectly tasteful guitars and pianos. All crooned in a deep, sage voice that has made me love Jennifer Lopez a bit more, and Bill Patton, all at once.
Bill pulled out an additional handful of covers at a live performance at the Sunset Tavern in Seattle last night, where he played half the set alone with his electric guitar, and the second half with kickass drummer Jason Merculief (Alela Diane, Jesse Sykes). The standouts were "Billy Jean" and "Sweet Emotion," sounding surprisingly groovy for a two-man band, the songs picking up new subtleties and tenderness that Bill can't seem to help but infuse everything with.
There are too many reasons to be excited about Bill Patton's new album coming out, whenever and on whichever label that might be on. Even if he weren't a guitarist extraordinaire, even if he weren't so good at picking cover songs, his own lyrics and the soft gravel of his voice are reason enough to be excited.
Bill Patton's first album, Gets It On, is available here.