General Patterson – Shackville (2009)

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by Nick DeRiso

General Patterson’s “Shackville,” recorded with former bandmates from north Louisiana bar-band legends Howard Shaft, moves like a warm, rustling breeze through the treetops.

Surprising, indeed, for an on-stage performer known for his rumbling Southern-fried blues grind. Where Patterson’s shows typically push out from the stage with a tough, muscular emotion, “Shackville” offers delicate insights, set to a country-rock twang.

“I guess I kind of pigeonholed myself sometimes, with my playing,” Patterson tells us. “I am an emotional player; I don’t sit down and work at it.”

This is a General who charges forward into his music, playing first — and asking questions later.

Until now.

Maybe it was getting back together with sympathetic, familiar faces, including trombonist Adam Jones (credited, also, with “philosophical advice”), bassist and engineer James Cook and drummer Derek Mixon (who also plays “shaker thingies”).

Maybe it was the idyllic setting of Cook’s Studio in the Ridge, “right in the heart of Peagram, Tenn., and the only recording studio equipped with a baby,” according to the CD liner notes.

Patterson then expands on this rich musical setting with the addition of Dan Cohen, who adds electric lead, slide and lap steel.

The result, “Shackville,” is comfy without being quaint, familiar yet challenging. Patterson doesn’t settle into nostalgia, instead ruminating on both the good and the bad of country living.

Patterson thanks his parents for bringing him to the piney woods and letting him run wild — “I’m still running,” he says — even as he questions some of the community’s core values.

“It’s my love letter to north Louisiana, the area I live in,” Patterson said. “It can be frustrating, and a very magical place at the same time. There’s always this thing where you wish your town would progress, but at the same time you don’t want it to progress.”

Here, there’s a knowing chuckle, as Patterson puts down his ever-present cigar.
“Shackville” is a record — in particular on cuts like “Three Crosses (the Mystery),” “Banks of the Ouachita” and “White’s Ferry Road (The Hangin’)” — that embraces its surroundings like old, true friends. We marvel with tear-popping joy at embedded memories, yet are also fully, sometimes painfully aware of past regrets.

“There are parts about north Louisiana that I would never take away; there are other parts that make you want to pull out your hair,” Patterson said. “At the same time, you let the pines hit your nose, and there is the beauty of the place and the calmness.”

Same with “Shackville.”

North Louisiana Redneck

Listen: General Patterson’s MySpace page. (Patterson also talks about the album “Shackville,” track by track, here.)

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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