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December 2005

Patty Waters
Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe: Live in San Francisco 2002
DBK Jazz

The screaming "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair" gets all the ink, but short shrift is given to the seven Patty Waters originals that filled the other side of her 1965 debut, Sings (ESP). On these originals, Waters sang late night confessions in a voice that wouldn't wake the neighbor in the next apartment.

Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe, recorded at San Francisco's Noe Valley Ministry, veers more toward the avant-gardist's traditional roots. It opens with a remake of "Moon, Don't Come Up Tonight," which also launched Sings. Accompanied here and throughout by pianist Leonard Thompson and bassist Seward McCain, Waters sings the once free-flowing song over a set tempo without sacrificing any of its pathos.

Her lower register often gets raspy, and there are moments early in the disc when her voice slips between notes. But Waters sounds more relaxed with each successive song and uses any shortcomings to reinforce the passion of chestnuts like "Old Devil Moon," "Willow Weep for Me" and most notably "Loverman," which sounds especially blue thanks to her phrasing and a bowed solo by McCain. Whether or not the reclusive performer is actually on the comeback trail, it's good to hear her enjoying herself.

Originally published in December 2005
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