Kenneth Pattengale: “SPEAK!” review

As published by LA Record:

If you subscribe to When You Awake’s RSS feed, you’ll want to get your hands on the new record from Kenneth Pattengale.  Equal parts folk, country & western, swamp music, and blues, Speak! marks the seventh full-length album from this prolific Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter in about as many years.  This time round, traces of Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder waft amiably amongst Speak!’s songs of sinners, fools, vultures, and lost loves.

“Laredo” kicks things off with some breezy, country-hued twang.  It’s not hard to see how the track ended up featured in the independent film Peach Plum Pear, about a couple of road-weary travelers who end up stuck in the cornhusker state of Nebraska.  But the lazy pace doesn’t last—upbeat fiddling in “Rock & Roll ’Er” makes for a petticoat-swinging hoedown hit!  Borrowing heavily from Bob Dylan, “Big Time” features a provocative duet with renowned singer/songwriter and Grammy-winning producer Joe Henry, who’s long been one of Kenneth’s personal heroes.  The closing track, a sleepy cover of ’80s German outfit Alphaville’s “Forever Young,” is so far removed from the original synth-pop production, your New Wave friend with the keytar would hardly recognize it.

Pattengale has been handing out free copies of Speak! at his live shows all this month. If you missed your chance to get it from him personally, there’s always Santa.

– Linda Rapka

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Kenneth Pattengale @ Hotel Cafe 11/25/09

As published by LA RECORD:

Where a twentysomething white kid from almost-suburban small town Eagle Rock got the soul of an old Delta blues player is anyone’s guess. Kenneth Pattengale displayed his love of traditional American music combining elements of blues, Tom Waits, and good ol’ fashioned country & western at Hotel Café Nov. 25. The show kicked off a monthlong residency celebrating the release of his seventh album, Speak!, and pulled in a decent size crowd—though Butch Walker held the headline spot that night, those ticketholders had to wait outside until Kenneth cleared the stage before allowed into the venue. With a five-piece band featuring fiddle, upright bass, accordion/keys, acoustic guitar and lap steel guitar (and sometimes percussion provided by Kenneth’s stomping foot), Kenneth delivered impassioned vocals recalling Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and at times even Louis Armstrong. His music has an Americana feel without the mama-ran-off-with-my-brother-in-law lyrics, instead telling uplifting stories such as his dream of always wanting a daughter. “I feel like I’m trying to rush through this set,” he said toward the end of the show, knowing there was a full queue outside awaiting entrance for the next act. “That is the wrong approach. I should revel in my time up here.” You can experience the revelry at the official record release show Dec. 2, at noon Dec. 5 for an interview and live performance on KCRW, and throughout the month during his residency at Hotel Café. A free copy of Speak! will be given out at every performance.

—Linda Rapka