Patty Blee,
Disguise
(Treasure, 2002)

Patty Blee is a native of southern New Jersey. Her husky voice is very similar to that of Canadian country singer Michelle Wright, and the rock-country-blues sound this album goes for suits her perfectly. She is backed by a stellar cast of backing players who combine for a sound that is polished but not overly slick. To drop some names, John Hammond plays harmonica, Augie Meyer plays accordion and Soozie Tyrell plays violin and sings. This is clearly an album that is aimed at the radio.

Blee wrote all of the songs on Disguise. The liner notes say that the album is intended to follow the course of a relationship, so all of the songs are love songs of one kind or another. Blee's writing focuses on the intense emotional side of love and not its mundane details. "Soul Dancing" is a good example; it is an idealized vision of an encounter with a soul mate. On the other side of the balance, "Cry" is written in the voice of a woman who is ready to walk out of a long marriage if her husband can't bring himself to cry.

Disguise tends to lean toward the poles of a relationship: some songs swear eternal devotion while others lament that the magic is gone as the narrator heads for the door. Those who find the most interesting parts of relationships to be the gray areas between the poles of utter joy and utter heartbreak will not find much here between those extremes.

Having said that, Blee's voice, the songs' catchy melodies and the good playing may have listeners humming along in spite of themselves. The gritty "Till I Get Enough" (which opens the album) is an ode to getting away from it all and heading for juke joints and dirt roads. "Couldn't You Feel It?" and "Lucky Ones" have soaring choruses while the slinky defiance of "Cry" draws the listener into the song even if one questions its scenario. "No Such Thing as Goodbye" was written for Blee's father the night before he died and it is as intense as anything else on the album. The liner notes include all the lyrics.

Disguise is well-executed, without a doubt; if there's any justice its radio-friendly sound should get airplay. Blee's performance is also excellent and her supporting cast does a great job. Those who prefer their love and loss songs leavened with some different material may find this album lacking, however. It will be interesting to see what Blee comes up with for a second act.

- Rambles
written by Jennifer Hanson
published 30 November 2002

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