When it comes to discussions of British Invasions, I’ve always been partial to the second, less iconic iteration. While I’ve certainly got my soft spot for the Beatles, Stones and, in particular, Kinks, I’ve always found acts that tried to break into America in the late ’70s and early ’80s more interesting.
Clearly, Pat Walsh feels the same way I do.
Walsh, an Atlanta-based but North Augusta-bred musician (he used to perform with his twin brother, painter Ed Rice) channels acts such as Joe Jackson, XTC, Elvis Costello and, most particularly, Nick Lowe in his catchy but always unexpected pop songs.
Working with an inspired cast of musicians that includes the late, great Rob Morsberger, he develops rich and engaging melodies that seem simple in the way only the most complex compositions can.
And while the music is a major component – particularly Walsh’s interesting idea of leading with a tenor guitar – what makes it work is his lyrical approach.
Thematically, Walsh isn’t breaking new ground. His songs are, for the most part, love songs. Love lost. Love found. Love celebrated and sought. It’s pretty familiar territory. But it’s rarely approached with the degree of abstraction that Walsh clearly understands is the foundation of his songwriting.
As an example, I’m Content to Leave the World is, on the surface, a simple song about feeling the need to retreat from the things that have caused emotional pain. It’s a familiar sentiment.
What is unfamiliar is Walsh’s willingness to spend much of the first verse carefully weaving a story of a bathyscaphe descending beneath the sea. It’s a story that becomes the central metaphor in the song, bringing us back to the surface only when the music swells and opens during the chorus.
It’s an incredibly courageous and, in Walsh’s hands, effective way to work.
There are those who might dismiss Walsh’s style as old fashioned, too tied to trends popular some 30 years ago. And while it’s true that this music is clearly inspired by singer-songwriters who have laid down tracks before him, he understands that acknowledging an influence, or influences as the case may be, still leaves a lot of room for creativity, particularly when those influences are as musically diverse – and strong – as his.
He never copies what once was popular.
He pays tribute to established classics.
And there is always room for that.
His album, Woolgathering, is available at http://patwalsh.bandcamp.com/album/woolgathering.