This is a very special treat, exclusively for the Friends of Unfair Park: A few days ago, Shibboleth's Don Cento shot me a few demos Shibboleth and some Very Special Guests recorded with Bobby Patterson -- who, far as I'm concerned, ranks at the very top of the list of this city's most valuable musical assets. I met Patterson -- whose songs had been covered by the likes of Albert King ("That's What the Blues is All About" for Stax), the Fabulous Thunderbirds ("How Do You Spell Love?") and Golden Smog ("She Don't Have to See You (To See Through You)") -- in the mid-1990s, when he was between semi-retirement and a comeback. And I've been a huge fan ever since.
But Cento's done more than write a few nice words about Patterson. In February, he took Bobby to producer Stuart Sikes' studio and laid down four songs, which Cento hopes will lead to a full-length with Patterson -- assuming they can find someone to finance such an endeavor, which won't be cheap. As Cento tells Unfair Park: "I'd love to go to Memphis and record there with Stuart and the Memphis Horns and the band and do something informed by that Memphis sound, without slavishly recreating it."
The four songs -- "Digging Up Bones," "Walkin' Round in Circles," "Satisfy Me," and "Low Blood Pressure" -- were the quinetessential dream-come-true for Cento and Shibboleth, who've performed several times with Patterson since December 2006, including at last year's Dallas Observer Music Awards ceremony at the Granada.
"We'd always wanted to be Dallas' MGs," Cento says. "I always wanted to be Steve Cropper and never thought I'd have the opportunity. Then a guy like Bobby magically appeared, and it was the right opportunity. He worked with Chips Moman and Dan Penn, and it felt great to lay down those songs. The next step was to put together a record of new material."
Cento was inspired by such albums as Solomon Burke's 2002 album Don't Give Up on Me, produced by Joe Henry, and Nick Lowe's 2001 album The Convincer. Both proved there was such a thing as a vibrant veteran; there was life left in those legends after all, as they worked outside their comfort zones to make essential music long after their respective heydays.
"In Solomon Burke's case, they got different writers to do different kinds of songs -- they weren't going for the kind of vibe he produced back in the day," Cento says. "It was just so natural, the kind of material a man of that age would and should be doing, so that resonated with me."
Cento and Shibboleth's keyboardist Rich Martin wrote the four songs; Cento penned the one below, called "Digging Up Bones," my early favorite from the quartet -- though on any given day, that tends to change. (Those who know Patterson's soulful, screaming early work will be stunned by this particular track.) So dig this -- I am not going to keep it up long. Tomorrow it gets a shot on DC9; then, on Monday, it'll be gone -- till such a time Cento lands a label deal for Dallas' greatest living soul singer, which, in a fair and just world, woulda been day before yesterday.
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And if you wanna hear all four tracks, not to mention selections from Bobby's estimable back catalog, he'll be performing with Shibboleth May 17 at the Sons of Hermann Hall, as Shibboleth releases its own new album, Experiment in Error. --Robert Wilonsky
Bobby Patterson and Shibboleth,