Can you remember the last time you listened to a record that stayed with you long after it had finished playing? Where the songs got under your skin right away, and worked their way right into the deepest part of you. Where you swear the singer ripped the words right off the pages of the book of your life to bring everything back to you in ways you’ve felt, but never been able to express. Listening to Matt Pattershuk’s music is like that.
Born in Burns Lake, BC, and brought up in Edmonton and other prairie towns across Canada, Matt Patershuk is the real deal. A country man through and through, he wouldn’t waste your time singing about things that don’t matter. It’s always good news when he leaves his tiny town of LaGlace, Alberta to tour or record an album, and this time around, he’s created something really special.
“I Was So Fond of You’ is Matt’s second record, and like his debut, the Western Canadian Music Awards nominated ‘Outside The Lights of Town’, Patershuk tapped Juno award winning producer and multi-instrumentalist, Steve Dawson to guide it to completion. To make this record, the pair met at Dawson’s newly relocated Henhouse studio in Nashville to hunker down and record one of the most honest Canadian country albums to ever see the light of day.
Matt Patershuk’s unaffected singing belongs to a different time and his voice reflects a reserve and unspoken toughness that is rarely heard today. Patershuk’s baritone may not be the most delicate voice you’ll ever hear, but it suits his songs so well that you couldn’t imagine him sounding any different. You can hear the resolve it takes for Matt to honestly share these songs; no matter how delicate the matters they express, he never skirts true emotions or takes the easy way out by giving way to melodrama. The songs on ‘I Was So Fond of You’ are peppered with the kind of humanity that you can hear in Willie Nelson’s best work and sometimes reflect a subdued irony that wouldn’t be out of place in a John Prine tune.
There’s a very active and intuitive imagination at work beneath the gruff exterior of Patershuk’s music and the songs on ‘I Was So Fond of You’ are like short stories that document turning points or uncomfortable interludes in their subject’s lives. He handles the expression of very raw and intimate emotions on songs like ‘Back Against the Wall’ with a grace and ease that few songwriters are ever able to muster. ‘Prettiest Ones’ is a deceptively simple country ditty that examines the temporary nature of love and beauty, while, still very much in a metaphysical state of mind, Patershuk’s ‘Little Guitar’ considers that in a sad world, music may be the only solace. He sings ‘you can’t make a fist when you’re playing guitar, singing songs about your Red River home’ and that like the old guitar that is the subject of the song, one person’s junk may be another person’s salvation.
The emotional heart of ‘I Was So Fond of You’ centres around two songs, ‘Harviestown’ and the title track that share Patershuk’s struggle to make sense of the tragic death of his sister, Clare who was killed by a drunk driver in June 2013. ‘Harviestown’ is as bare and painful a reflection about the hopelessness and finality of death as has ever been written, and you’d have to be made of pretty stern stuff not to tear up while listening to Matt trying to come to terms with his loss on ‘I Was So Fond of You.’
Like every project Steve Dawson is involved with, “I Was So Fond of You’ is a sonic treat full of brilliant instrumental performances. Dawson’s unmistakable string work adds the perfect touch to every track to evoke the sad and lonely worlds that Patershuk sings about. To capture the immediacy of these songs, the album was recorded live off the floor with only a few overdubs – including Ana Egge’s haunting and gorgeous back up vocals – added after the sessions. The result is a gorgeous sounding record that evokes the rugged feel of Waylon Jennings or Kris Kristofferson in their primes.
In a perfect world where substance mattered more than style, Matt Patershuk would be a big star.