When I walked into the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge on that night I had no previous knowledge what so ever of this musician. The first time I had heard the name Joe Purdy was earlier that day when a friend offered me an extra ticket to the show. The only reason I am being honest about my lack of musical knowledge is because it made the performance that much more enjoyable. By having no expectations: by never hearing an album, never watching a you-tube video, and by never having the opportunity to see him play live…when the band hit their first note I was taken away.
It was truly a delight witnessing this talented trio play together. With a pleasant and modest swagger Joe Purdy proceeded to pluck his worn in acoustic guitar. His raspy voice, which showed more years than his burly bearded face, rang out vivid lyrics of life, love, and looking for answers. It was Purdy running the show, occasionally performing songs on the piano or adding harmonica to the act. His sound however was strongly complimented by the members of the opening group, The Milk Carton Kids, sitting in with him. Joey Ryan held down the bass guitar, back up vocals, and aided in fantastic comedic dialogue with the audience. Kenneth Pattengale was a rare sight to see; someone that with ease and skill hopped back and forth between guitar, organ, lap steel, mandolin, banjo, vocal harmonies, and maybe even more instruments that I am forgetting about.
For the sake of making identifiable comparisons I will say I heard certain melancholy rhythms, and vocal abilities that reminded me a lot of Ryan Adams; while at the same time there was a soulful catchy easy-listening side that someone like Van Morrison or The Counting Crows would hit you with. Joe Purdy is a folk singer-songwriter from Arkansas that can paint pictures with his words. He has put out 12 strong albums so far, and has toured all over the place with many different musicians. If you are like I was, and have never come in contact with this artist, take a second to check it out or attend a show… Because on that cool Thursday night in June, the people that were lucky enough to catch this concert walked out with a smile ear to ear.