What Tomorrow Brings
Guitar Odyssey, 2008
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/17/2008
Full disclosure: Larry Pattis is a friend of mine whom I came to know through my reviews of and e-mail conversations with fellow fingerstyle guitarist El McMeen. It had, though, been about two years since I had heard from Larry, having gone through my semi-retirement from The Daily Vault.
Then, out of the blue, Larry e-mailed with news that he was finally bringing out his third CD, What Tomorrow Brings, and was interested in hearing my opinion of the disc. Well, as I like to say, we aim to please…
What strikes me most about this disc is that Pattis’s playing is quite possibly the most emotional he’s done yet. This works as a blessing and a curse – a blessing because it makes some of the songs on What Tomorrow Brings some of the most joyful he’s recorded, a curse because the more melancholic moments, while powerful, make the pieces difficult to listen to, especially if you’re coming from a dark period in your own life.
Now, it’s been some time since I spoke directly to Larry, so I’m sorry if I’m wrong in my perceptions, but judging from the comments in the liner notes, I believe it’s safe to say that Pattis has gone through some of those dark periods over the last few years. The disc is dedicated to his late father, and the closing track, “The Long Night,” is also the shortest that Pattis has recorded in his young career, clocking in at just over one minute. It’s almost like there is more to the song that begs to be told, but the sadness of the loss prevents it from being played.
In a sense, it almost feels like the title track is part of this same story; the playing is quite introspective, and the final chord progression leads the listener to believe that Pattis wants them to “fill in the blanks” in their mind, like a chord or two was purposely left off. It’s an intriguing challenge, but it works. In a similar vein, I get a bit of a vibe of reminiscence tinged with sadness on “Bloomington” and “The Sleeping Girl” – do not listen to the latter if you’re wondering where your children’s early years went!
Likewise, the two tracks that Pattis didn’t write prove to be some of the most emotional. “Waltzing Matilda” is turned from a happy-go-lucky, almost throw-away piece into one that seems to celebrate the Australian roots while lamenting something lost. This by no means makes it bad – in fact, the different spin works to Pattis’s advantage. Likewise, his take on Peter Lang’s “When Kings Come Home” strikes me as being a two-edged sword. I hear the celebrations of return, yet some of the chord progressions lead me to believe that, if there is truly a story to the song, some kings were being carried back for burial. (No doubt that Pattis will be reading this review, and might even show it to Lang; I invite either artist to contact me and let me know if I’m even close to the target with this analysis.) Whatever the case, it’s one hell of a powerful piece of music.
This is not to say that What Tomorrow Brings is a sad disc; indeed, for each mournful song, there is one that is just as celebratory. Now, I freely admit that, in my mind, Pattis will never top “Big Mountain Sunrise” – a track I still listen to with great regularity. But “Tillie’s Jig,” “Eleven Doors” and “Forty By Forty” all are solid contenders when held up to that standard. “Monkey Business” is one that needed to grow on me, but proved to be just as joyous, though it’s not quite as strong as others on the disc, such as “Kettle Moraine”.
Pattis’s style of playing has never been one of showboating – though, Lord knows his skills on the six-string are impeccable. Instead, he shows control by letting the music itself, not skill on the guitar, speak for him – and it says volumes. Listen to “The Spanish Dream,” and try not to be taken into a world of suspense and romance, especially in the portions that break into a light waltz.
What Tomorrow Brings is easily Pattis’s most challenging disc in terms of the gravity of some of the songs’ subjects, and I admit it took me several listens to really appreciate just what he had to offer within these 14 tracks. I understand that most people won’t want to take that kind of time to really get to know a CD – but I can vouch that it’s well worth the time and effort to do so. Giving this one a cursory listen will, admittedly, still leave you with the impression that Pattis is a rising star in the field of true “new age” acoustic music. But spending some time listening to this disc will make you feel like you’re part of the journey, not just someone watching it from the comfort of your home stereo system.