Patty Loveless, Stone Mountain Arts Center (Brownfield, Maine)

patty_lovelessThe following is a guest contribution from frequent commenter and devoted Patty Loveless fan, Stephen Fales, who is better known to Country Universe readers as Steve from Boston.

Country Universe is a site where timeless artists like Patty Loveless are not merely acknowledged, but embraced and celebrated. So when Leeann invited me to review my favorite artist’s Brownfield Maine concert as a guest contributor, I jumped at the chance. Thank you so much Leeann, Kevin and Country Universe for giving me this opportunity. And Leeann and Bill, it was a joy and an honor to join you folks for dinner and watch the concert with you. You both made this already memorable concert experience even more unforgettable for me, along with patty-loveless.net associates Nicole, Richard and Patti, and the following day Bob and Barbara, Kevin. And also, Marcia Ramirez from Patty’s band. Many, many thanks to all.

Patty Loveless at the Stone Mountain Arts Center, Brownfield Maine

July 3, 2009

Nestled in the northern reaches of the Appalachian Mountains, Brownfield Maine’s Stone Mountain Arts Center is a beautiful and intimate 200 seat converted barn turned listening room. It has a warm and rustic ambiance, and a very helpful staff. The wood beam framed building makes for a rich acoustical setting, almost like a giant, wooden resonator box. It is a hard place to find out there in the Maine wilderness, but well worth the effort, especially to enjoy artists and legends like Patty Loveless, Ralph Stanley, Marty Stuart, Suzy Bogguss and Kathy Mattea. Think of it as a quest.

This beautiful mountain setting was a perfect match for Patty Loveless, the celebrated neo-traditional Country artist with the warmly expressive Appalachian alto. The Queen of Mountain Soul seemed right at home in the northernmost reaches of her domain, and seemed to absolutely love the venue.

Patty Loveless is a warmhearted and humble lady, she is a true artist with a good sense of humor and down-to-earth personality, the “anti-diva” as her drummer, Martin Parker, calls her. She takes the stage with very little fanfare, no high tech video introduction or ostentatious stagecraft, no bells, no whistles. She just quietly joins her band and begins to sing. It is all about the music with Loveless, and she lets the music speak for itself.

Still, there was plenty of excitement in the air at Maine’s Stone Mountain Arts Center, but the magic emanated entirely from Patty’s empathetic heart and her crystalline Mountain-bred voice. She sings from a place even deeper than the heart, Patty Loveless sings from the very depths of her Appalachian soul. No smoke or mirrors needed, indeed, they would have been out of their league competing with such natural, God given talent. Patty Loveless sings without a net, and her performance on July 3rd, 2009 was inspired and virtually flawless.

Loveless is the prototypical Country artist. She has refined and perfected her inherent gifts through years of hard work and perseverance, and has become a living link to Country’s Golden age. The artistic (but not the chronological) scope of her work reaches all the way back to the works of the Carter family and Bill Monroe, and forward to the finest modern Country and Bluegrass artists. Folks like Jim Lauderdale who penned two of the 18 songs in Patty’s concert lineup. She is a master interpreter of their work, and a keeper of America’s rich Country and Bluegrass cultural heritage. Patty Loveless is herself, a national treasure.

All that’s good and great about Country music is embodied in the voice of Patty Loveless, and she brings it all to bear on her first rate, soul-nourishing material. Her mentors and musical heroes, her east Kentucky upbringing and authentic Coal-miner’s daughter heritage can be heard in the soulful Mountain timbre of each and every note that she sings.

Her amazing repertoire consists of songs that have been carefully selected over many years by Patty herself and her husband/producer (and genuine musical genius) Emory Gordy Jr. And this they have done with little regard to what is trendy, and with every regard to what is timeless, or potentially so. Patty and Emory choose and write their material with a profound understanding and appreciation of the heritage and traditions of authentic Country and Bluegrass, a heritage she often speaks of with great reverence between her songs. And by following her heart in all of her musical choices, Patty Loveless connects deeply with the hearts of her listeners.

Loveless’ song lineup at SMAC was a mix of real, hard-core Country, and the finest contemporary Country. But the lack of any Mountain/Bluegrass songs that she could have included from her catalog kept this generous sampling from being truly representative of who she is as an artist. Still, a generous lineup of her always high-quality hit songs, and her featured Sleepless Nights mini-set of classic Country covers was fine compensation, and is the stuff of legend in the making.

Patty blazed into her set list with passion and precision, leaving her audience awestruck and breathless. In a very real and literal sense, this was a breathtaking performance from start to finish. At 52, Loveless is still very much an artist on an upward trajectory, and her voice just keeps getting even better with the years.

Some notable highlights: Her heart wrenching rendition of the Jim Lauderdale penned “You Don’t Seem to Miss Me”, for which she won a Vocal Event of the Year award with the legendary George Jones. Loveless has collaborated with some of Country music’s absolute finest male singers, including Jones and Vince Gill, and for live performances she needs a strong male voice to fill the void on a few of those songs. Thankfully, she has found the perfect vocal partner in her band member, Garry Murray, who sang the tricky Jones harmony with feeling and finesse.

“Nothing But the Wheel” is the perfect Country song, by the perfect Country singer. It moves with a forlorn tempo, like the car the protagonist drives away from her heartbreak: ” And 41 goes on and on, and the lights go winding in the dawn, and the sky’s the color now of polished steel…and the only thing I know for sure, is if you don’t want me any-more then I’m holding on to nothing but the wheel.” With Patty Loveless at the wheel, it just doesn’t get any better or more Country.

Patty’s interpretation of the George Jones gem, “If My Heart Had Windows”, is a song of deep gratitude for love gone right, and she sings this slow lover’s waltz with a torch style intensity that warms the heart and burns to the soul.

Patty’s knockout rockabilly rendition of “Why Baby Why” kicks off her Sleepless Nights classics set with high octane energy…Patty describes it as “George Jones meets Tina Turner” But it’s all Patty Loveless…Patty is far too humble to admit this, but she very often surpasses her musical heroes with her own interpretations, and her version and performance here was no exception.

Ray Price’s original version of “Crazy Arms” was charming, but the Loveless version is nothing less than enchanting. It is┬ápure music magic. Pete Finney begins and ends the song with a palpable sting from his expressive steel guitar, but it’s Loveless’ soulful and soaring vocal that really penetrates the heart. When Patty and Emory recorded their version “Crazy Arms” they slowed down the tempo from a moderate shuffle to a torchy ballad. This serves Patty very well in concert by giving her the opportunity to find and wring out every last drop of emotion hiding in the potential of the original.

Some inspired phrasing enables Patty to put great emotional emphasis on the lyric “crazy dream” as in “this ain’t no cra-zy dream I know that it’s real” whereas Price’s original stressed the first word “This” instead. This subtle yet dramatic difference is but one example of the interpretive genius of Patty Loveless.

The title song of Patty’s Grammy nominated classic country covers album, Sleepless Nights, features Vince Gill, and once again Garry Murray came through with flying colors. Vocally flying with Patty Loveless cannot be easy, “why did you go, why did you go? Don’t you know, dont you know? I need you”, But Murray keeps right up and they both soar to the heights. There was lightning in the area during this concert, and there was a single crackle that seemed to come from the amplifiers during this song. But Patty never missed a beat, and the whole song came off perfectly. Patty Loveless is a force of nature, and she positively electrifies her audience.

Lead guitarist Tom Britt took his opportunity to shine during an extended and exciting slide guitar introduction to another Lauderdale song, “Halfway Down” He wailed away like a true rock star, building anticipation before the familiar opening chords of this Loveless hit. Likewise, Patty kept the excitement going full boil throughout this rip-roaring Mountain Rock song.

The set closer was “Blame It on Your Heart”, perhaps Patty’s most performed song of all. She sings it with an energetic enthusiasm that makes the song fresh for singer and listener, every single time. Indeed, this is the way that she approaches every performance, embracing each and every note like it was her first and only chance to shine and share her gift. This Harlan Howard song is just plain fun and children seem to love it as well, as they try to sing the tongue-twister chorus. Loveless is artist and entertainer in equal measure. No other singer on the scene today balances the two quite as well as Patty Loveless does, with the exception perhaps of Dolly Parton.

Patty’s stage presence is confident as one would expect from a seasoned veteran, but also warm, easy going, and playful. She has a natural Country charisma and even her speaking voice, her relaxed east Kentucky drawl is music to the ears of her audience. The stories of her musical heroes, and her accounts of her formative years as a young artist under the tutelage of the late great Porter Wagoner, and her 21 year membership in the Grand Ole Opry, are informative and entertaining.

Her audience interaction is often full of surprises. Observing the intimacy of the venue, Patty commented how folks in the front rows were so close, and jokingly suggested they grab an instrument and come on up onstage. “But don’t grab me”, she quipped. “Although on second thought, that may be fun” Then she quickly added, “don’t mind me, I’m just a real cut up and a harmless flirt”.

When she mentioned her husband Emory Gordy Jr., she received some noticeable applause from the audience. Patty responded saying that it was good that Emory had some fans here as well, and “I see a young lady here with an Emory (University) shirt, How many concerts is this now, Nicole?” to which Patty’s (and Emory’s) most devoted fan replied “199″, and Patty said with a smile, “Wow, I owe you one, don’t I?” Patty also said something about how she was glad Nicole was such a huge Emory fan, then added: “but don’t forget now, he’s MY man”, which also brought laughter from the audience.

After “Blame” Patty introduced her incredible band. It is clear that all these folks are friends and fans of each other, and Loveless herself can often be seen warmly grinning, holding her heart and slowly shaking her head from side to side with enraptured appreciation during her band’s various instrumental interludes. And proficiency on multiple instruments almost seems to be a requirement in the Loveless band. Marcia, Deannie and Garry all play at least three instruments, and it seems most everyone is schooled on mandolin in a way reminiscent of Bill Monroe’s old Bluegrass string band. The stage, as wide as it was, could barely contain the scope of this incredible array of talent.

There are only a few criticisms for this otherwise flawless concert. The sound of the drums for the first few songs was much too loud, and competed for volume with Loveless’ strong vocals instead of supporting them. But that sonic imbalance was pretty well corrected by the sound techs before too long.

Also, Loveless seemed pitch perfect all throughout, with only one or two apparent missteps. Just enough to remind us that this is a gifted flesh and blood human being, and not some kind of angelic troubadour.

After the band introductions and some more friendly banter with her audience, Patty eased into her encore performance of the Hank Williams standard “Cold, Cold Heart”. With sparse acoustic instrumentation and a little steel, it was almost a capella, and one could hear a pin drop between the notes. Patty’s version is chill-inducing perfection, tear producing and is especially potent live. And that evening her performance was especially transcendent, almost supernatural. I almost expected to see the ghost of Hank Williams take a seat and tip his hat to the finest female interpreter of his work, bar none. I would love to see what Loveless could do with ole Hank’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”. The audience, and even her own band, was transfixed and mesmerized. Band members Marcia and Deannie especially, looked on with smiles of amazement.

With the completion of each song in the lineup, Loveless and her band received enthusiastic applause, which she greeted each time with sweet smiles and a grateful “God Bless You.” And at the end, she received thunderous standing ovations, and seemed genuinely humbled and overwhelmed. She gathered her band with her outstretched arms, and then they all graciously bowed a collective bow.

Patty Loveless is the most authentic voice in Country music today. Her fidelity to tradition, her creative blending of her own brand of mountain and country music, and her artistic integrity have rightly earned her the title of “Queen of Mountain Soul” from the great Ralph Stanley himself. And performances like her Brownfield concert on Friday, and albums like the exquisite Sleepless Nights demonstrate that she has earned the title “Queen of Country Soul” as well.

Patty’s long awaited follow up to her acclaimed 2001 classic Mountain Soul is scheduled for release on September 29th. Mountain Soul II has every essential ingredient to be yet another Loveless-Gordy masterpiece, and should enrich her already exceptional set list considerably. Just in time for the next leg of her tour starting this Fall.

As for a possible return to the Stone Mountain Arts Center? Word has it that Patty loved it so much, and felt so welcome by her gracious hosts Carol Noonan (folk singer and songwriter), and her husband, their staff and her appreciative fans, that she hopes to return twice a year.

Both on record and in concert, the music of Patty Loveless befriends the listener. She may sing “Soul of Constant Sorrow” on her Mountain Soul album, but the music of Patty Loveless is a source of great and constant joy, as well as inspiration, catharsis and consolation for all with attentive, listening hearts.

-Steve from Boston

For more information on Patty Loveless, visit

Patty-loveless.net,
Which is the most comprehensive and up-to-date Patty Loveless fan site.

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19 Comments

Filed under Concert Reviews

19 Responses to Patty Loveless, Stone Mountain Arts Center (Brownfield, Maine)

  1. bobbyNo Gravatar

    Thank you so much for this review. The enthusiasm in which you write about her makes me appreciate her even more. I just listened to Mountain Soul before I read this. Usually I don’t listen to a singer for more than one cd consecutively, but I think I’m going to listen to another one now because I know I’ll be able to appreciate it even more now after reading this.

    It sounds like a fantastic show. Thank you for sharing about it with us.

  2. Wow, that concert was on my birthday, I wish I could have gone. xD

    Great concert review: NOT FAIR!

  3. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    Thanks for taking the time to read it guys, I know it’s long.

    Happy Birthday Chris! Wish you were there..

    and Bobby, if I have helped you to appreciate Patty even more, than I have suceeded. Thank you so much. :)

  4. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    This really was a wonderful concert. Not only was it fun to meet Steve (and it truly was), the concert was superb. I’m glad Steve reviewed it, because I wouldn’t be able to do it the justice that he has. I’d love to go back and see a bluegrass set next time. SMAC was a wonderful host too, very accommodating…and fantastic cake.:)

  5. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Speaking of SMAC, we’re considering a show with Chris Thile’s Punch Brothers later this month. Also, Mary Chapin Carpenter will be there in a couple months. I was interested in seeing Sheryl Wheeler the next night (July 4), but we had other plans. They really have great taste in music there (as Steve outlined above with mentions of past guests).

  6. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    Thanks for everything Leeann, for helping me to focus and giving me all the time I needed. And it was wonderful meeting up with you and Bill as well…and I gotta say, I envy you for living in Maine, much closer to this awesome venue than I do! Have a great time at all your SMAC concerts…and If Patty comes back like she seems to want to, we should meet up again. :)

  7. Every word here is lovingly written.

    As an aside…Steve, you really do show ‘loyal’ and ‘rabid’ fans how they can write about and ‘promote’ their favorite artists without being rude or militant about it. Thank you for being someone other fans should hope to emulate.

  8. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    Wow, thank you Matt, that is very kind of you. I do still have stong opinions, but I have learned a little diplomacy lately. It’s been a process and an evolution.

  9. DaleNo Gravatar

    Beautiful write-up Steve! I saw Patty twice a few yrs. ago & she is one of the sweetest people to her fans as I luckily found out when I got backstage.

    She is one of the few female artists I truly adore & enjoy listening to.

    I enjoyed reading your review! Dale

  10. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar

    I have to say that I was disappointed in missing the concert before reading this, but now I really feel that I missed out on a great evening! Kudos to Steve on writing a great piece and Patty for putting on a set that balances the old with the new (or the old with new spins on the much older!)

  11. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    Thank you Dale, and thanks Kevin, wish you could have been there too.

    Here is the complete set list:

    -You Can Feel Bad (If It Makes You Feel Better)
    -On Down The Line
    -You Don’t Seem to Miss Me
    -Nothing But the Wheel
    -Lovin’ All Night
    -If My Heart Had Windows

    -Why Baby Why
    -Crazy Arms
    -Sleepless Nights
    -The Color of the Blues
    -That’s All it Took

    -My Old Friend the Blues
    -Here I Am
    -Halfway Down
    -You Don’t Even Know Who I Am
    -Lonely Too Long
    -Blame It On Your Heart

    -Cold Cold Heart

  12. Great write-up, Steve. I saw Patty in concert years ago when she opened for Vince Gill. Would love the chance to see her again.

  13. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    Thanks a lot Razor, I’m so glad Patty’s touring again, (as well as still making amazing records) so you may well have your chance in the not too distant future.;)

    That must have been something to see Patty and Vince on the same ticket. Did they do any of their duets togther on stage?

  14. I’m a litle late to the party here, but I had to comment to say what a great review this is. And like Matt B. said, I hope other fans take note and see how someone can profess their adoration for artists without being rude and/or insulting other artists and their fans in the process.

    I saw Patty Loveless at the Paramounts Arts Center in Ashland, KY in 2005. It is an evening I’ll never forget.

  15. Nelson LiNo Gravatar

    Thanks for the review Steve; I enjoyed your analyses of the phrasing and interpretation of various songs by Patty. I was fortunate enough to be at the show and feel that you have captured the details of that evening in a heartfelt and honest write-up.

  16. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    Thanks so much J.R., appreciate it.

    Also, I have a good friend from Ashland, KY, and you saw Patty there back in ’05? You must have had the good fortune to have seen her perform “Keep Your Distance”, and “Harlan” and her Mountain Soul set live. She did some legendary concerts back then (and now as well, legendary concerts in the making) and I’m sorry I missed them. Unforgettable, I’m sure.

  17. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    Glad you enjoyed the review and the concert, Nelson..glad you were there, and it’s nice to have another witness to attest to this amazing event! :)

  18. JohnNo Gravatar

    Great review. Patty is my favorite artist. I’ve seen her about 15 times over the past twelve years, including three times last fall. I’ve always felt a sense of awe in getting to hear her sing. How often do you get to see someone who does what they do better than anyone else?

    Last fall, Patty seemed to be more at ease and enjoying herself more in concert. I hope she keeps touring for a long time.

  19. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    Just an informal recap addendum.. extended, but not as long as the review. ;)

    This was the first of two back to back Patty Loveless concerts in Maine..The wonderful thing about such concert experiences is that moment waking up after the first one and remembering how great it was the night before, and the joyful anticipation one has about seeing one’s favorite artist again, the very next night.

    Patty’s show the following day was part of a 4th of July celebration, the LL Bean free Summer concert series in Freeport on the coast of Maine. This outdoor concert almost didn’t happen due to thunderstorms in the area for pretty much the whole day. But all this was a perfect and appropriate setting for a genuine national treasure and force of nature like Patty Loveless…Mother Nature provided the fireworks leading up to Patty’s show, and the venue provided man-made fireworks afterwards, but nothing could match the “mountain-bred wonder” that is the voice of Patty Loveless.

    Patty’s very talented keyboard player, singer and songwriter Marcia Ramirez opened the show with a shortened 3 song sampling of her wonderfully crafted songs. (she graciously cut her set short from seven to help Patty’s odds of finishing her 19 song set) With 2 or 3 of Patty’s bandmembers backing her up, Marcia was flawless and filled up the park with the sweet and soulful sound of her voice, and captivated the audience with her song-stories and poetic lyrics. Marcia Ramirez is a true talent and a wonderful lady, and we all wish her the best as she pursues her solo career. :)

    Patty’s song lineup was the same as her previous night at Brownfield’s SMAC, differing only with the encore. She substituted the uptempo “I Try to Think About Elvis” and “She Drew a Broken Heart” for the heart wrenching “Cold Cold Heart” Wise considering the diverse audience mix of Loveless Lunatics, casual fans and curious bystanders. Loveless knows her audience, and tailors her set accordingly.

    Patty’s performance was inspired and breathtaking as the night before, but she ran into some technical difficulties during the first four or five songs. The speakers crackled and buzzed, again…but Patty demonstrated her professionalism by singing through with passion and precision, showing no sign of the displeasure she may well have felt.

    But the audience was on her side the whole way through, she never lost them.. They absolutely loved her. With her perseverance and professionalism, Patty Loveless pulled a rabbit out of her hat and saved the day.

    Patty kept her comments short, to increase the odds of being able to finish her set in the event of returning T-storms. She appreciated audience requests for songs like “Mr. Man in the Moon”, and “Like Water into Wine”, but was unable to accomodate, explaining there were so many songs she’s recorded in her 20 plus years as a recording artist, and there were many songs she wished could have been singles. But she would try to do as many as possible as part of her set list that night.

    The last song before the encore was “Blame it On Your Heart” and Patty pulled up a “pretty little miss” from front row center to sing with her on stage. The little girl seemed a little shy, but sang her best and danced a few turns as Patty held up her arm for some spins and twirls. The girl finished with a proper bow, which surpised and delighted Patty and her audience. Patty dismissed the little girl with a big kiss on her cheek, and whole thing was a wonderful way to end a wonderful day.

    And it turns out this was Nicole’s (from patty-loveless.net) 200th show, and she met Patty afterwards and posed for her milestone picture. I had the pleasure of spending time with Nicole and some other wonderful fans and staff members from Patty’s best fansite after the show, and all and all, it was a weekend that I’ll never forget.

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