Home Hear Jim Patton & Sherry Brokus Are Looking For Trouble In Harbortowne

Jim Patton & Sherry Brokus Are Looking For Trouble In Harbortowne

The Austin Americana duo's latest single is a sly slice of musical chiaroscuro.

Jim Patton & Sherry Brokus head out to raise holy hell in Harbortowne on their disarmingly sweet and lowdown new single — showcasing today on Tinnitist.

The opening title track from the prolific Austin couple’s upcoming seventh album (and third full-length in as many years), the acoustic folk-blues gem Harbortowne is a superbly sly slice of musical chiaroscuro. Lightly strummed guitars and a jaunty gait set the stage for what starts as a timeless tale of a night on the town. But the lyrics quickly descend into the darker, desperate terrain of Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle or Warren Zevon — and sound increasingly disturbing against the irrepressible buoyancy of the music:

“I’m goin’ down to Harbortowne
I’m goin’ down to Harbortowne
I’m gonna throw some cash around
When I get down to Harbortowne

“I gotta roll of dollar bills
I gotta roll of dollar bills
Sex and booze and pills and thrills
When I get down to Harbortowne

“Has anybody seen the candyman?
Has anybody seen the candyman?
Tattooed man in a beat up van
Has anybody seen the candyman?…

“I’m gonna bring my daddy’s gun
I’m gonna bring my daddy’s gun
I won’t be scared of anyone
When I get down to Harbortowne.”

Not surprisingly, there’s a story behind the song. Harbortowne “refers specifically to Annapolis,” says singer-guitarist and Maryland native Patton. “Kids from the suburbs or smaller towns go to the big city seeking trouble and fun… Annapolis was the nearest city for us to get in trouble in when we were kids. I never carried a gun, and it’s really not my friends I’m referring to… but it’s all about the excitement and anticipation that generally accompanied our youthful adventures and indiscretions.”

“Years later, Sherry was the head of the Annapolis Youth Services Bureau when they were housed on Clay Street. Clay Street has since been cleaned up, but at the time when I would pull up to pick her up, I would be offered any kind of drugs I wanted. The cops had let Clay Street run wild because it concentrated most of the drug activity in one place and made it easier to police. The clientele wasn’t black, though the dealers were. They were suburban kids, driving their daddy’s Cadillacs. So those are the kids I’m picturing going to Harbortowne.”

As you might expect, Patton and Brokus specialize in taking sketches of everyday life and transforming them into songs that ring and resonate in ways both mindful and memorable. With the loose concept album Harbortowne, they channel the seminal sound of classic folk rock and create an exhilarating sound that provides the essence of true Americana.

“The working title for the album was Pattonville, the result of a joke our friend and fellow musician Jeff Talmadge made,” Jim explains. “The characters in these songs are all derived from a world I’ve created in song. I originally wanted the album to be like Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg Ohio, or Edgar Lee MastersSpoon River Anthology — a series of seemingly disconnected stories about a town where I resided with characters could come and go from song to song. This isn’t exactly that, though you can still see some of the remnants of that earlier idea.”

Patton has always found reason to retrace his history, particularly those experiences and encounters that helped shape him as a man and musician. Edge City was his Baltimore band before he moved to Austin. Formed in 1984, the group performed at many of the great venues of that earlier era. “We played Grateful Dead-type festivals and punk clubs, but we were neither Dead-like or punk,” Jim insists.

Jim and Sherry met at a bar in Maryland, when she asked to sing a song with his band. He suggested Neil Young’s Cowgirl In The Sand, and the two have sung together ever since. Along with musical influences like Richard and Linda Thompson, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, The Everly Brothers and Emmylou Harris’s work with Bob Dylan, Jim draws on literary giants like Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Kerouac, Salinger and Chandler, as well as his friends — doctors, lawyers, waitresses, teachers, water rats, gravediggers and “the guy who drove the truck that emptied the port-o-pots all over the state.”

Due Sept. 20, Harbortowne was recorded and produced by Ron Flynt of the acclaimed power-pop band 20/20 at Jumping Dog Studio in Austin, and was mastered by Jerry Tubb at Austin’s Terra Nova Studio. The album features a sterling cast, including Flynt on vocals, bass, keyboards, harmonica, and acoustic guitar; Rich Brotherton playing acoustic guitar and mandolin; Warren Hood on fiddle; John Bush playing percussion; and singer BettySoo on backing vocals.

Check out Harbortowne above, hear more from Jim Patton & Sherry Brokus below, and head on down to their website and Facebook.