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Recording A New Album With Bob Dylan's Band
Patty Blee
I like to write honestly and the song has to come from a place in myself where I've been touched so deeply that I have to write about it. - Patty Blee
by Josh Davidson
 [Chorus and Verse] January 2003 Feature: Patty Blee
Patty Blee

Patty Blee writes songs with personality and flair, expressed with a singing voice that sensitively paints her musical picture with emotional depth. This said, it’s no mistake that her latest CD, Disguise, contains musical legends and ones previously chosen by legends to help them reach their own musical vision.

The story of Blee’s adding an all-star cast to the CD began when its executive producer, Jerry Klause, wanted to use Blee in a christening project for the studio he owns, Scullville Studios of Scullville, NJ. Klause is Blee’s friend who accompanies her at performances when a percussionist is needed.

“The unique thing about this project is it was going to be just a bare-bones acoustic project,” said Blee, a Brigantine, NJ native.

The acoustic CD wound up in the hands of Klause’s musician friend who was friends with Richard Crooks, the drummer for Bob Dylan’s band. Crooks said he knew some players who might be available. They happened to be Larry Campbell and Terry Garnier respectively, the guitarist and bassist for Dylan’s band.

This dream band became Blee’s supporting cast on Disguise.

“I would sit in the studio with my guitar in front of these legendary luminaries and play my songs and we would just cut it,” Blee said. “It was the most amazing experience of my life.”

“I’m sure they’re very selective about who they work with,” Blee said.

These musicians came up with their own interpretations of Blee’s songs after hearing her play them on guitar.

Crooks also brought Soozie Tyrell, an artist who has toured and recorded with Bruce Springsteen throughout his career, to the project.

Patty Blee

“She’s just the coolest lady,” Blee said. “She did the background harmonies and played the violin throughout the record. Just gracious, inspiring people.”

John Hammond, Jr., a modern-day blues legend, met Blee while playing a show at Bubba Mac's in Somers Point, NJ and wound up playing harmonica for one song on Blee’s Disguise. He finished his recording duties before Blee made it to the studio that day.

“I met him the night before at the [Bubba Mac's] show,” Blee said. “He had to catch a plane in Philly. He only took two passes. When you are John Hammond, you can do that kind of thing.”

The musicians took about a week to record and the vocals were slowly added that summer. Blee was pleased with the final overall product. "It turned out better than I dreamed it would be," she said. "I wanted it to be very sparse, acoustic based and heartfelt and I think it came out that way.”

Disguise, recorded for Klaus’s Treasure Records label, features songs that lyrically touch on Blee’s personal experiences and ideals for making it through even the simple challenges life brings. Many deal with the pain of love when it begins to fade and the joy felt from lasting through its tests.

Blee sings with emotion and color clearly reflecting her lyrical message. The group of musicians brought to the project consistently deliver textbook rock motifs in a thoughtful groove.

“[Disguise] so far surpassed what I was thinking when I went into it,” Blee said.

Since its release, she has opened for known artists like Martina McBride and Delbert McClinton.

“I have no illusions of becoming rich and famous or a big country star, but it would be nice,” Blee said.

Blee’s songs mostly write themselves, with flurries of songs coming at certain times and dry spells at others, she said.

“Most of the songs I’ve written come all at once,” she said. “I don’t like to stop until I have a finished product. I like to write honestly and the song has to come from a place in myself where I’ve been touched so deeply that I have to write about it.”

She has tried to get used the patterns in which her songs come about, trying to stay ready when a wave of songs approach her.

“When you catch a wave, you want to ride it as far as you can without riding it too far,” she said.

Songwriting is also about knowing what works and what doesn’t.

“When the lyrics, melody, the hook and the feeling is something I wanted to capture in the first place, that’s basically a defining tool for deciding what I want people to hear when I’m singing,” Blee said.

Patty Blee

Blee began playing music at about 10, but never really wrote, kept a journal or diary, until she was in her 30’s. She said she may not have began writing until this point because she was so intimated by the songwriters who inspired her growing up, which included James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and Bob Dylan.

She was inspired mainly by the singer/songwriters of the 70’s. Her top four influences are Joni Mitchell, Raitt, Linda Rondstadt and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

“As much as people listen to karaoke, DJs, and computer music, there’s something about a person with a single instrument that people will remain interested in,” she said.

While many may say her music is country, Blee would categorize herself more in the folk vein. Emmylou Harris was among the few country artists she listened to growing up. Her father, an avid country music fan who especially liked Johnny Cash, got her started in music, showing her some guitar chords.

“A lot of [my playing music] had to do with my dad,” Blee said. “He was very much a music lover. It was always something I loved and gravitated towards.”

Blee learned how to play by ear, as oppose to formal theory. While attending the University of Delaware, she played with others at its bars, and continues to play presently after working her day job.

“When you do this for a living, you get paid to travel and you do this for free,” she said.

Her following, she said, is folk-based. Blee has received opportunities from a booking company that promotes national touring concerts called West Creek Music Group, opening for the acts it brings in, she said.

“I keep getting asked back to play places,” she said. “Some of those places, I’ve been playing for 17 years.”

She plays solo acoustic shows, as well as shows backed by Klaus, on percussion, and a guitarist. Blee plays covers for more lucrative opportunities, averaging three to four gigs per week.

Upcoming performances include a possible opening slot with Tyrell, who recently released her own CD on Treasure Records called White Lines.

With opportunities continuing to arise, the possibilities for this Jersey veteran are endless.

[ Website: www.pattyblee.com ]

Josh Davidson
Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and njcoast.com. He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.
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