From the honky tonk heartache of "Draggin' My Heart Around" to the toe-tappin' pleasures of "Lovin' All Night" and the evocative tenderness of "The Grandpa That I Know," On Your Way Home is classic Patty Loveless passionate, immediately memorable, painstakingly crafted and, above all, real. Songs of genuine emotion, songs with some miles on them, the music here captures the joys and sorrows of the lives we live for real. As Patty says, "Music, for me, is history. Yours, mine, ours. It's about where we come from." And Patty Loveless, as On Your Way Home again so wonderfully attests, comes from country. Not just the geographical region of America's heartland, but the state of soul that cherishes honesty, hard work and hard loving, and no-frills, authentic experience. Patty continues: "My mother didn't like the word 'hillbilly,' and I can understand that. But I've certainly known some very sharp hillbillies who've outsmarted the wisest. Today, with movies like 'O, Brother Where Art Thou?" hillbilly is hip, it's cool. But I've always been proud to be a hillbilly. I'm proud to talk about where I come from."
Recorded in Nashville and Franklin, Tennessee with some of country's finest players, On Your Way Home follows Patty's 2001 critical tour-de-force, Mountain Soul, left off. That CD, one of the many highlights of Loveless's 18-year and nearly 20-album career, found the singer returning lovingly to the music that made her the high lonesome sounds of Flatt and Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers, and Bill Monroe. Lean, lovely, spirited music, it not only returned Patty to her roots, but began a fresh chapter in her musical history.
"Mountain Soul inspired us to go in with a little bit more raw production," Loveless says, "and this new record reflects that." This time out, Patty and Emory Gordy, Jr., her husband and longtime producer, threw in tasty electric guitar and bass, as well as dynamic drumming, but otherwise the instrumentation is boldly vintage acoustic six-strings, mandolin, banjo, pedal-steel and fiddle. No keyboards, no piano, no drum machines. And very few overdubs. "At this time in my life," says Loveless, "I feel very comfortable with what I'm doing. With this record, when I listen to it, over and over I've come to realize, 'Wow, I'm going back to revisit the kinds of songs I loved when I was growing up.' These days, I feel a little more flexibility to go in a more traditional direction."
Traditional, but not staid. Gems recently penned by some of today's top tunesmiths - Rodney Crowell, Matraca Berg, Marty Stuart, and Buddy Miller, to name but a few the songs of On Your Way Home celebrate the art of expert songwriting, while mining universal and always-contemporary themes love, loss, dreams and yearning. In much the same way that the new album leavens its old-style instrumentation with electric spice, the songs achieve a kind of best-of-both-worlds appeal, their emotion as fresh as a new love affair, their polished craft making them timeless. "Picking songs is tricky," Patty says. "Generally, Emory and I take car trips and play demos. I'm the programmer and he's the chauffeur. Almost always, after a hearing just a verse and a chorus and a good title, we can tell what works for us. We try not to pay too much attention to the writer. We concentrate on the song."
Love and loneliness, memory and dreams, heartbreak and hope the songs of On Your Way Home cover the range of human emotions. From the wry observations of the story-story "I Wanna Believe" ("My woman's intuition is arousin' my suspicion") and its irresistible rhythmic drive ("I think it's got a modern-day rockabilly feel," Patty says) to the keening lament of "Last in a Long Lonesome Line") ("Tears and whiskey, yeah, I spilled my share") the album testifies to the trademark care Loveless and Gordy have always shown when choosing just the right material.
"I always believe that I've got to convince the listener that I've experienced the song," Patty says. "Sincerity is everything. It's much more important than just hitting the perfect note. And I know that if I'm being sincere with myself, I'm being sincere with the listener." A stellar example of this heart-to-heart delivery? The stunning title track, "On Your Way Home." "That's the kind of song," Patty comments, "that digs deep. Of all the songs I do, whether they're radio hits or not, the ones that dig deep are my favorites."
Born in tiny Pikeville, Kentucky and spending her girlhood years in nearby Elkhorn City, Patty was a coal miner's daughter drawn to music early on. By the time she was 11, she was playing the guitar her father had given her, and she was inspired equally by bluegrass, rock 'n' roll, and the glorious sounds of the full-throated female stylists of country music.
Searching for talent to shepherd along the new traditionalist road, MCA/Nashville signed Patty in the mid-'80s, and by 1987, her groundbreaking self-titled debut had introduced the world to new and highly distinctive voice. Patty's five MCA albums established her as a singer of remarkable range, capable equally of wide-screen ballads and down 'n' dirty rootsy fare. But she came fully into her own when she signed to Epic Records in the early '90s. Her debut album for the label, Only What I Feel, earned Patty two CMA nominations for Single of the Year and recognition as a vocalist at the height of her powers. The album paved the way for an astonishingly successful run of 14 Top Ten hits including such classics as "Blame It On Your Heart," "How Can I Help You Say Goodbye?," "Here I Am," "You Don't Even Know Who I Am," "Halfway Down," and "You Can Feel Bad."
When Fallen Angels Fly won Loveless awards for Album of the Year from both CMA and the Academy of Country Music, and both organizations honored Patty as "Female Vocalist of the Year" two years in a row. And with each subsequent release Trouble with the Truth, and then Long Stretch of Lonesome peers and fans alike accorded her the respect and affection due to an artist who's proven that she's in it for the long run, and whose each new album is marked both with continued artistic growth and consistent quality.
Hence, it showed real audacity for so established a performer to take the creative risks of releasing her next masterwork, Mountain Soul. Free of any hint of crossover compromise, it was as purely country a record as you'll hear these days. And critics and general listeners alike loved it.
On Your Way Home builds not only on the sheer passion of Mountain Soul but on the entire legacy of one of country's premier artists. Candid and heartfelt, it's real music, authentic soul. "Sometimes I totally get lost in the song," says Patty, "I become the person who's living the lyrics." That commitment is dazzlingly evident on "Born Again Fool" ("The song talks about a lonely man sitting on a park bench the kind of man I've passed by many times. I may not be that man, but I can feel what he's feeling.") And that emotional capacity is fully apparent on one of the album's most moving tracks, "The Grandpa That I Know" ("I see tears on daddy's face/Someone's hummin' Amazing Grace") a beautiful testament to the endurance of family and an elegy for a way of life ("A tractor never pulled his plow'). "Higher Wall," too, is a song The disc also boasts tunes of pure delight, like Rodney Crowell's "Lovin' All Night" -- "Just with acoustic guitars, Rodney and I first sang it together on the "Down from the Mountain" tour," Patty says. "I just knew I had to record it" and the driving "Nothin' Like the Lonely" ("I just love the instrumentation on this cut the fiddles, the banjo, the kick drum. And, of course, I've certainly sung a lot about 'lonely,'" Patty laughs).
For Patty Loveless, each new album offers another chance to connect to the fans she thanks and inspires, to her musical heritage, to her history. And each new album is a chance to pass that history on. "I'm so happy to experience the life I've had," she muses. "There's not too many kids to day who can say, 'Oh, yeah, we had an outhouse growing up and there was time we didn't have running water. A time when Daddy would take a bath in a tub in the kitchen and Mama would put blankets up to give him privacy. I remember times like that. That's what I've lived, and what I sing from. And it makes me feel blessed. And because the songs I sing come from that, I always hope my music will be an open history book to anyone who listens."
On Your Way Home, then, is Patty Loveless's history, a series of musical snapshots of this time in her life. It's her history, but it's also ours a soundtrack for the lives we live.
--- from the official Patty Loveless website