Justin Patterson’s voice bubbles with optimism during “Making Headway”, the opener for Ten Penny Gypsy’s second album release Fugitive Heart. The ten songs Justin Patterson and Laura Lynn Danley composed for this collection contend with the ever-present specter of separation in our lives. We face this experience in a variety of ways. Ten Penny Gypsy never portray the world in exclusively rosy hues, their songs acknowledge the obstacles we often place in our own way, but Danley and Patterson’s songs are full of promise for new days to come. You hear that in the opener, among other tracks, and Patterson’s singing practically bursts from the speaker.
Blues music exerts a definite hold over Ten Penny Gypsy’s musical imagination. You won’t need further evidence than the track “Brick by Brick”. The song’s slide guitar gives the performance some needed grit, but it doesn’t come off as a gimmick. Danley and Patterson tackle the blues style with genuine affection rather than academic distance. This doesn’t sound like a musical exercise; instead, it sounds like talented musicians taking an established vehicle and making it work for them.
The album’s title song “Fugitive Heart” is a marquee performance on this release. Patterson and Danley’s feeling for tradition ensure they pour an enormous amount of focus and effort into making this song an emphatic personal statement rather than just another recording. Different listeners will have varying takes on the album’s variety. Some will hear subtle variations, for instance, in the way they fix their attentions on harmony vocals during one track but rely far less on this feature of their sound in the following recording. Others, however, will find the approach Ten Penny Gypsy take to be solid, but “samey”.
I disagree with the latter. Danley and Patterson are careful and measured songwriters and there are many understated strands throughout this collection. This is even more apparent when you hear the track “Highway 65”. This is, arguably, the moodiest performance on Fugitive Heart, but there’s a victorious spirit in the heart of this track. Patterson’s vocal contribution to this cut may be his finest performance included on this release and shows his interpretive powers in full flower. The musical arrangement progresses with patience and sparkles thanks to exquisite musicianship.
“Mexico Flyer” shares similar DNA. The wealth of significant detail in the lyrics makes it one of the peak numbers on this release and the vocals invests the words with appropriate dramatic intensity. “Train Won’t Wait for Me” is another stellar song the duo wrote and recorded for Fugitive Heart. The imagery rife throughout these tracks shows how Patterson and Danley are thoroughly stepped in traditional songwriting, but never satisfied with serving up their own take on those time-tested musical themes and turns of phrase.
They make personal and deeply felt personal statements, instead, utilizing its language. Ten Penny Gypsy’s Fugitive Heart never comes across as a paint by numbers effort. Laura Lynn Danley and Justin Patterson are building a career that posterity will look favorably; there is a seriousness of intent behind the optimism in these songs and I relish such a mature, thoughtful example of songcraft.