Patterson's three albums on her own Little Blue Men label differ sharply from one another, and one reason to see her show might be to experience a young artist at that heady stage of blazing through new territory. Her debut, Hybrid Vigor, was a Celtic fusion affair that ventured into swing, Louisiana music, and more. Take Some Fire was a lyrically ambitious work with a full band and lots of rock influences. Patterson's recent live album, Caught in the Act, features just the artist and her bouzouki. If her July Ark show follows the pattern of the music on that CD, expect a move in the direction of Irish traditional music and a delightful sense of humor attuned to the tastes of the folk and coffeehouse audiences Patterson has been pursuing. Singing traditional songs has made Patterson bear down and hone an edge on her voice that wasn't there before.
Only the highly adventurous among the Celtic crowd are going to like Beth Patterson; it's not so much the stylistic diversity that will discourage the others as the total individualism of her music in a genre with a communitarian ethos. And she's way too low tech at this point for pop success. Which leaves those of us who love those all-American musicians who swing for the fences.
Beth Patterson comes to the Ark on Tuesday, July 5.
[Originally published in July, 2005.]