Patsy Moore | Expatriates

Patsy Moore
(Papa Chuy)

A Record Reflection by A. Scott Galloway

There is no harder working entity in the music business than a Black woman singer that doesn’t do R&B, sings softly, expresses her culture and education with exquisite class, and whose latest album just happened to turn out to be a concept album – an outstanding one at that. God bless Patsy Moore.

Expatriates is a thoroughly transporting song cycle concerning the quests for identity and a place one can truly call home. This running theme (rendered more like a floating theme) is examined personally, historically, metaphorically and universally via music that feels as if it materialized out of dreams. When there are grooves, they are more like pulsations – echoes of heartbeats winding through waltzes, tangos, discos and the rhythm of life. Floating ethereal over it all is the sweetly singular voice of Moore, a soft whisper of compassionate yet disengaged all-knowing that acts as an omniscient navigator/narrator for a series of scenarios about people yearning for belonging.

The album opens with the instrumental overture “Mother of Exiles” penned by Patsy and arranged for piano and strings by Eddie del Barrio (of Earth Wind & Fire, Caldera and Herb Alpert fame). It sets the mood as of eerie displacement, longing and restlessness. The mood brightens with an air of romantic anticipation on the title track “Expatriates (The Free and The Brave)” which finds us looking down upon a pair of lovers in a JFK terminal awaiting a flight to their new life together in Europe, wondering how it will play out. Gently danceable and fancy free, it is a quaint opening (reprised near the end of the cycle with the vibrant Latin number “Historia”) within an album that almost immediately takes on deeper, darker subject matter afterward.

“The Wife of Paul Gaugin” takes a walk in the battered flats of Mette Sophia Gad, the wife of the great French painter whose capricious artist life drove her and his 5 children away from an existence she never imagined this man would inflict upon them. With brilliant juxtaposition, the sax of Katisse Buckingham mirrors the rising hysteria and discontent of Mette while the song’s unwavering waltz foundation reflects the self-centered oblivion of Gaugin. This is followed by the more hopeful “Second Chances” with a message that each passing year offers one renewed opportunities for reinvention and, hopefully, redemption from unfulfilling pasts.

The next two songs are perhaps the album’s most haunting. “Blood” is a brooding meditation inspired by the weight of being an African American whose ancestors were hauled to this country as cargo in the Atlantic slave trade while your peers of other cultures spin stories of their ancestors choosing to come here to make a better life. The ethereal voice of Lauren Wood moves through this piece like a film of sad celestial spirits. Its partnering song is “This is Not My Home (I‘m Just Passing Through),” the refrain of which recreates the holy earthen feel of a vintage gospel vocal quartet.

From a touching nostalgia-kissed retelling of the Greek mythology tale of “Icarus” with acoustic guitars, bells and synths to the dreamy, intimate tango-bridged story of a familial angel coming to a lovelorn girl’s rescue on “Aunt Cristina Posts a Letter,” all of the songs are evocative little gems rivaling the best work of Kate Bush or Lamya, and all serving the conceptual theme with seamless aplomb.

The album comes to a heartwarming conclusion with the Leonard Cohen-esque “Evening Prayer” on which, over the reverent piano of Charles Mims, Patsy bows her pretty bald head with a universal plea to bless all of Earth’s displaced needy in lieu of lobbing up a generic ‘God Bless America’ – a place that is clearly feeling less and less like home for an artist that has begun to seek elsewhere.

“Bless the heartbeat of the city / Bless the downbeat on the one / Bless the hollow-eyed and gritty / Bless the things that should not be undone / Bless the white lines on the freeway / Bless the laugh lines on your face / Bless the night light in the hallway / Bless the daylight, gone without a trace”

A final note: if you play this CD in a car or on repeat, the way it rolls right back into the instrumental overture makes it feel like a twilight time dream loop of bedtime stories to be enjoyed and contemplated over and over again.

Expatriates is an artfully emotional and intellectual one from the heart by a high school salutatorian that remains at the top of her craft…hoping desperately to beat the clock – and the odds – to find and sink her weary roots within a blissful by and by.

A. Scott Galloway
June 23, 2011
The Urban Music Scene

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