Ten Penny Gypsy’s Fugitive Heart displays an unity of purpose few musical collections, any genre, share. The ten tracks included on this release have a completeness suggesting Justin Patterson and Laura Lynn Danley entered the recording studio with finished compositions and a clear idea of what they wanted their sophomore release to sound like. They have expanded on the potential I heard from their self-titled 2017 debut release without veering from the stylistic template they established with their first offering. The twosome behind these songs, Justin Patterson and Laura Lynn Danley, are obvious students of Americana music, primarily country and blues, and they work with topflight collaborators.
Producer Anthony Crawford is one of those collaborators and, arguably, the most important. The Arkansas based duo benefit enormously from the steady hand of this former member of Neil Young’s backing bands The International Harvesters and The Shocking Pinks during the Eighties. Crawford, as well, brings a wealth of experience from his time on the road with Dwight Yoakam and Steve Winwood. He pays attention to every detail on this ten-song set and maintains an even-handed approach to capturing the various instrumental strands present in these songs. “Making Headway” is an outstanding opener. You hear soft-pedaled exuberance over the course of this release and this first track embodies much of the album’s spirit. The country music influence here is strong.
“Brick by Brick” goes in a different direction. The turn towards the blues will be familiar for existing fans and newcomers to the duo’s music will be pleased with Ten Penny Gypsy’s fidelity. Common touches for the genre are present; the slide guitar heard during this track gives it flair. It never sounds like crass mimicry. Patterson and Danley are believable tackling blues music. “Highway 65” is one of the finest examples of their songwriting prowess. It’s to their credit that they can invoke such atmosphere despite the relatively low-key musical slant they follow on this release. The vocal melody and lyrics alike are touched with exultant eloquence; it never feels rushed and the intensity of the writing isn’t stagy or overwrought.
“Road to Memphis” is another blues inspired performance. The dueling electric slide guitar and accompanying acoustic guitar are freewheeling and melodic from beginning to end and the sound Ten Penny Gypsy achieves gives this track added musicality. It is especially appealing how the vocals are so assertive yet loose and seemingly “in the moment”. Many listeners will enjoy how they adopt the familiar language of blues music, mix it with references to the genre, and fashion a tribute to this city that says even more about the pair’s musical loves.
The slow roll of “Train Won’t Wait for Me” is a pleasing aspect of this track, but the chorus rates among the best on this collection. Many listeners will note how the verses and choruses lock into each other with a seamlessness it often takes others years to develop. It is impossible, as well, to remain unresponsive to their obvious sensitivity – the surface of this song is placid, but the emotion runs deep. Fugitive Heart will please anyone who loves stripped down melodic songwriting with a pronounced tilt towards the traditional. Ten Penny Gypsy have the songwriting and performing chemistry of an act capable of sticking around for years to come. Let’s hope so.
by Bethany Page