What Surprises Us (Patsy Moore) – music review

Patsy Moore is a singer/songwriter, poet, essayist, educator, filmmaker, and independent artist. I first stumbled across her music when her voice and work appeared on albums coming out of Nashville, singing backgrounds on an album by David Mullens, and her song “Talk About Life” became the title track on an album by Kim Hill. Soon she signed a recording deal with Warner and delivered two fine solo albums, Regarding the Human Condition (1992) and The Flower Child’s Guide to Love and Fashion (1994). In 1999 Moore had a couple songs covered by jazz chanteuse Diane Reeves: “I Remember” and “Goodbye”. That same year she collaborated on a musical CD and teacher’s guide: Kwanzaa for Young People (and Everyone Else!).

In time, life, the massive change in the recording industry, and the challenges of a cancer diagnosis intervened. Yet Moore, the indefatigable artist, released projects on her own label, Papa Chuy. They included 2007’s The Most Private Confessions of Saint Clair, and 2011’s Expatriates, an artful exploration of her own experience as one born on the West Indian island of Antigua, where her mother was native, and a childhood as a military brat following her father’s career around the country, with reflections on ex-pats and artists in Paris at the turn of the last century, and modern day exiles, immigrants and refugees.

What Surprises Us, finds Moore in similar musical territory as on Expatriates, a blend of piano-based pop-song balladry, soulful awareness drawing on a variety of R&B and jazz instincts, the smart application of percussive poly-rhythms, orchestration, and the way musical shades and colors are cultivated by artful arrangements, often recalling the work of Joni Mitchell. The title track leans into a light funk sprinkled with bright electric guitar tones, with a mid-section that percolates with percussion, while pointing to the fact that we’ve lost touch with ourselves, so human kindness throws us off guard, and “the thing that surprises us is love.”

In “Speechless,” we see the artist as introvert, while the piano base is peppered by a vocal chorus and synth augmentation and a jazz trumpet, while Moore sings, “there are things I would tell you if I could, but this song is braver than I am.” In the opening “Kundalini” and later in “Evocation (The Temple),” Eastern/African percussion dominates, almost hiding Moore’s voice in the mix, but it causes you to lean in, longing to hear and comprehend the wisdom at the music’s center. The natural mysticism at the heart of “Sister Moon” and “River Song,” are rooted in the deeper awareness as expressed in “Magic” and “Walking Through Walls,” but it all comes down to the self-realization that at heart each of us is “Beloved,” and from that knowledge we can see the path forward.

Patsy Moore continues to be a very special voice, one filled with tender insights and a soulful way of expressing it.

Brian Q. Newcomb
For more of Brian Q. Newcomb’s music reviews, check out The Fire Note

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