Courtney Patton is still relatively new to the country music scene, but she’s made a quick impact. Her simple, observant writing steeped in descriptive, effective imagery as earned herself a large fan base. Her musical arrangements are simple, yet beautiful; relying on an acoustic guitar, fiddles, and a steel guitar. As Courtney told Ken Morton Jr. “Country music to me is simple stories with beautiful words with a simple melody and beautiful arrangement.” Patton’s follow up to her 2013 debut album, Triggering a Flood, comes after a time of life’s changes. Her parents have divorced and remarried others, and Patton herself has gotten married to fellow Texas singer/songwriter Jason Eady. The varying emotions that stem from those events make their way into the songs on Courtney Patton’s new album So This Is Life.
The album starts off with the heartbreaker “Little Black Dress.” The violins are present along with Patton’s acoustic guitar. The song’s subject packs a black dress and prepares for a night on the town, hoping to find some comfort in the arms of a stranger. Maybe she’s hoping to fall in love; maybe she’s hoping not to attach feelings to the one night with him. Regardless, the night ends with her alone, after he leaves, feeling heart-broken. “War of Art” feels a bit more personal. In this song, Patton wrestles with the conflicting desires of being a stay at home mother/wife and fueling her passion for playing music on the road. The steel guitar and accompanying production give the song a feeling of forward movement, giving her internal debates a slight sense of urgency.
“Her Next Move” deals with a woman who vies for attention from her husband. She consistently threatens to leave town and end the relationship, but her constant game of crying wolf no longer worries her husband, as he knows she’ll never act on her words. One night stands are the explored again in “Need for Wanting.” Here a woman is alone in the bar conversing with a man. She knows the man’s intentions, as she says “you look like a lesson I learned long ago.” This country ballad makes it clear that if they do end the night together, it’s nothing more than that night.
Relationships of a husband away from his wife are explored in the next two songs. “Twelve Days” is a song Patton wrote early in her marriage with Eady. The traveling musician is back on the road and the listener hears the wife’s side of their many conversations. From her telling about her local show, to asking if he brought his coat for the cold northern weather. It’s a beautiful song of a wife coping alone while she misses her husband, and both Josh and myself included this on our lists of best songs from June. On the flip side, “Killing Time” deals with a husband who is carted off to jail for stealing money. This is a more upbeat country song where the husband knows he has screwed up, and she’s left waiting for his sentence to end.
Courtney Patton sings of a woman who messed up in the relationship on “Maybe It’s You.” This woman left her man for a little bit and feels guilty about her actions. It could be the actions themselves that cause the feelings, or it could be the comfort at home and forgiveness from her husband. The simple production of the acoustic guitar and slight percussion and violins work wonderfully on this song. Another late night rendezvous is the subject of “Sure Am Glad.” This mid-tempo song finds both the man and the woman sleepless in their own homes. They both are lonely and vulnerable, and while his knock on her door was unexpected, his arrival is welcome.
The title track is a brutally honest exploration of how life can disrupt relationships. Youthful dreams of fairytale marriages are abandoned as a young mother and father work to make ends meet. As time goes on and more children are in the picture, he works long days and she’s left to tend to the home and all the chaos of raising children. It’s not the life either of them planned, and when separately dealing with this life has taken its toll, divorce is the only answer they find. It’s a heartbreaking song, but so vividly told and sung by Courtney Patton. “So This Is Life” is why people refer to country music as three chords and the truth.
The theme of loveless marriage continues on the next few songs. “Battle These Blues” deals with a husband who drinks too much and stays out too late. A common subject for females in country music, and the woman in the song is left heartbroken, unsure of how to handle this season of life. However, “Where I’ve Been” finds the woman of the marriage being the night owl. Life at home isn’t pretty, and she feels unloved by her husband. In order to fill the hole in heart he can’t, she takes to the nightlife, presumably being unfaithful. Though she’ll be ready to drop this lifestyle when he’s ready to begin again, as long as he doesn’t ask where she’s been. Finally, the album ends with “But I Did,” a song that feels like a Courtney Patton autobiography. It’s song that details the values she’s inherited from her parents while having her own free spirit. She’s always been a dreamer with a love for playing music who follows her dreams with blind faith.
So This Is Life couldn’t have a more appropriate album title. The songs detail relationships of all kinds: happy and sad marriages and temporary flings with strong women and weaker women. It’s a personal album where Courtney Patton has dug into her soul with a few songs that could be direct snapshots from her life. These songs are delivered with eloquent lyrics and vivid images and a vocal delivery that matches each mood beautifully. The musical arrangements, as beautiful as they are, sometimes drag the album. There’s a bit of monotony among some of the songs’ productions. So This Is Life is a songwriters album: the focus is on the stories that Patton has penned. It’s a darker album simply because it tosses a spotlight on real moments that most would want to avoid in songs. However, country music’s legacy wouldn’t be what it is without songs like the ones found here. Courtney Patton’s So This Is Life is real; it’s honest; and it’s as heartbreaking as it is beautiful.