Patterson Barrett moved to Austin shortly after appearing on Jerry Jeff Walker’s first release on MCA records, playing pedal steel, dobro, and guitar (including the song “L.A. Freeway”). Not long after arriving in Austin, he formed the band Partners In Crime, which included Buddy and Julie Miller, releasing one album on their own label, Criminal Records. In the years since, Patterson produced some of Hal Ketchum’s earliest demos, served in Al Kooper’s back-up band, and performed before 10,000 festival-goers as Chuck Berry’s pianist. He accompanied Nancy Griffith on Austin City Limits, legendary Austin singer Lou Ann Barton in music clubs around the country, and Buddy Miller on several records including his recent collaboration with Jim Lauderdale, Buddy & Jim. Patterson's discography includes three solo endeavors—I Must Be Dreaming (2007), "When I Was Your Age…" (2012), and the 2018 release, Give ‘Em What They Want. He cites Neil Young and country-rock pioneers Poco and the Flying Burrito Brothers as his early influences, as well as soul stalwarts such as Sam and Dave, The Temptations, and Marvin Gaye. His music has been compared to John Hiatt, The Band (whose song “Sleeping” he lovingly covers), and Ryan Adams.
As in his two previous solo outings, Barrett makes much of the music on Give ‘Em What They Want himself, but there are plenty of guest appearances by friends and peers. Featured performers include Jim Lauderdale, Walt Wilkins, and Stuart Duncan, plus Gurf Morlix and Buddy Miller sharing vocals with Barrett on the single “3 Young Alleycats.” Credited to “3 Old Alleycats,” the song is a reminiscence of the days gone by when Morlix, Miller, and Barrett were knocking around Austin. In it, the three declare wistfully, “The universe will never be the same again,” but then muse “How long we can howl at the moon, no one can tell.”
The music is solidly Americana, with nods to influences as diverse as The Band, Little Feat, and Gram Parsons, all of whom Barrett cites as inspirations. At times the songs lean toward the country side of things, as in the slyly humorous, two-step inducing “Elephant In The Room” (with Lauderdale on harmony vocal.)
But there are also introspective singer-songwriter moments, notably in “If I Only Knew How,” with Barrett finding himself unable to help those close to him who need it the most.
Barrett may be best known for his sideman work (everyone from Chuck Berry to Jerry Jeff Walker to Buddy & Jim), but he’s amused by the notion that the CD represents some sort of debut as a front man. “…yeah, that’s…interesting, since I’ve been writing, recording, and performing my own songs for…well, really, since I was a teen”.
Patterson intends to spend the bulk of 2018 touring behind the record. “It’s really about the songs; these songs show up, and I feel obliged to give them a chance to find an audience. So it’s sort of like, ‘The Songs of Patterson Barrett on Tour (accompanied by Patterson Barrett)’ If I don’t sing ‘em, who else will?”