Little Rock, Arkansas based duo Ten Penny Gypsy open their second full-length album with the track “Making Headway”. It’s a fantastic way for Justin Patterson and Laura Lynn Danley to kick off their latest release and the track breezes by with the help of Anthony Crawford’s five-star production. The warmth and clarity surrounding the track’s minimal instrumentation help make the album’s ten tracks inviting despite whatever shadowy mood might be prevalent in the music and lyrics alike. Ten Penny Gypsy open things on an up-tempo note and the blues style they adopt for much of the song’s lyrical content alludes to their roots without sounding imitative. It is a song percolating with optimism.
Other musicians appear over the course of this album’s ten songs such as Crawford, an one-time member of Neil Young’s bands the Shocking Pinks and International Harvesters, and guitarist Buddy Case. The musical heart of these songs is, without question, the partnership between Patterson and Danley. They never impose an one-size fits all approach to the vocal duties for this collection and the spectral beauty of the fourth track “Highway 65” will silence any arguments otherwise. The breezy tempo of the song “Lovely Melancholy” helps the track sparkle, but the production adds considerable luster as well. It’s easy to marvel, time and again, at the inviting sound Ten Penny Gypsy achieves throughout this release and its apparent ease makes it all the more satisfying. Danley’s singing is fantastic.
“Road to Memphis” is a little predictable, but nonetheless drips soul. It doesn’t sound like an academic exercise or hollow tribute; Ten Penny Gypsy, instead, embraces the track’s blues influence and explore familiar imagery with a style all their own. The musicianship is high during this performance and it breathes new life into, perhaps, otherwise hoary blues motifs. “Mexico Flyer” is another peak moment on Fugitive Heart. The duo’s narrative gifts are in full flower with these lyrics and the vocals resist any hints of theatricality. The country strands are stronger in this cut than its predecessor, but a consistent stylistic approach defines the album despite its allegiance to a variety of genres.
The low-key instrumental thrust of “Lonesome No More” is another stellar number. It is more reliant on harmony vocals than many of the earlier songs, but this isn’t a bad thing. It’s another sharp decision from Patterson and Danley including so many uptempo tracks on Fugitive Heart. Mixing their relaxed country, blues, and folk synthesis with a fast pace imbues those songs with an energy level they would have otherwise lacked. The overall urgency of this collection is impossible to deny.
This sort of music will survive so long as recordings exist. It will never reach the same commercial popularity it enjoyed many decades ago, but it retains the power to capture listener’s imaginations. Its honesty and naked vulnerability remain potent. Ten Penny Gypsy’s second album release builds on the promise of their first, but you come away from these ten songs certain even greater victories lay ahead.