Hands Of Time

Larry Pattis

Guitar Odyssey Records, 2002


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Full disclosure: I consider fingerstyle guitarist Larry Pattis to be a friend. I've had the privilege of seeing him perform when he was in my area with fellow guitarist El McMeen last year. I've had the honor of having both men break bread at my house, followed by an enjoyable session where we all talked about the philosophy of music. (I have that audio tape somewhere; one day I'll have to transcribe it. It was a fascinating evening.) Rest assured, though, this review is not influenced by our friendship. If anything, I might be even a little more critical because of that fact.

In truth, though, Pattis's latest offering, Hands Of Time, is a disc that is hard to be critical of. Continuing in the same tradition he followed with his debut effort Random Chance, albeit with a slightly more Celtic flavor to his playing at times than before, Pattis leaves no doubt that he is on the cusp of becoming a major name in the field of acoustic guitar music.

I once described Larry's style of music as being more new age than Celtic - and by "new age," I was comparing him with such guitarists as Michael Hedges and Doug Smith, two of the finest in the genre. Hands Of Time builds on this, as Pattis takes his Martin hollowbody and absolutely wrings pure emotion out of it. From the playful but inriguing strains of "Buddy Boy" (one of two songs somehow related to dogs - nothing wrong with that, mind you) to capturing the artistic discovery and joy of its destruction on "Burning Man," Pattis captures the listener's ear for the entire disc - making you wish that it didn't end so quickly.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Granted, I was familiar with a number of these songs; when Pattis was in Gurnee last October, he performed "Burning Man," "Buddy Boy," "The Paths Of Swannanoa" and (following the tragic attacks of September 11) "Homeland Suite" for a captive audience. But despite my familiarity (albeit brief) with many of these songs, each track has constantly been a journey of discovery; each time I listen to them, I hear something new. (After spending an entire day listening to nothing but this disc, that's quite an accomplishment.)

And yet, I will call my friend Larry to task on two minor points of contention. First is the matter of closing the album with "Ashokan Farewell," a piece originally recorded for The Civil War documentary on PBS. It's a beautiful piece of music that sounds even better on guitar than it did on fiddle, and Pattis tries his best to put his own unique spin on this selection. However, in my mind, he's fighting an uphill battle; the version on McMeen's The Lea Rig, on which Pattis guested, will always be the definitive version. (Actually, that's not quite true; the version that McMeen and Pattis performed that night I saw them almost had me in tears, it was that beautiful.)

The second minor point is the sudden halt to "Buddy Boy" - I don't know why, but it just doesn't sound right to end this song the way that Pattis does. (In all honesty, I can't remember if this is how it ended in concert.) Granted, I wasn't crazy about that sudden muted chord ending on "Burning Man" at first, but the more I listened to it, the more I realized that it was the proper way to end this piece. I'm still not as convinced on "Buddy Boy".

So why should you invest your money and time in Hands Of Time? It's quite simple, really - especially if you have any love or respect for the guitar, from jazz enthusiasts to head-bangers. Pattis is able to take a simple contraption of wood and metal strings and make his guitar come alive with his music. You're not merely listening to a song being played on acoustic guitar; you're listening to a portrait painted in notes... and how that portrait takes shape in your mind, only you can discover. I know; I took that jouney no less than ten times within the first 24 hours I possessed this CD.

One side note to Larry, who I know is checking out this review: As magical as your music is, there is something even more magical about seeing you perform it live. Have you considered actually having a performance filmed? Just a thought.

One day in the very near future, Pattis is going to become one of the most respected names in the world of fingerstyle guitar, right up there with El McMeen and Pierre Bensusan. Hands Of Time is a musical document which proves that Pattis is closer to that goal than even he might have imagined - and all it takes now is for the right breaks to fall his way. For Larry's sake, and with all respect to McMeen, I hope they do - 'cause they couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

For more information or to order this CD, please visit Larry's site.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Guitar Odyssey Records, and is used for informational purposes only.