June 12, 2009
Pat O'Connell - On the Sunnyside of Ashland
On Pat O'Connell's MySpace he describes his music as unsophisticated guitar tunes. Isn't modesty refreshing? O'Connell's tunes are hardly unsophisticated. Though I discovered O'Connell's music via The Revenge of Blind Joe Death: The John Fahey Tribute Album, he isn't letting that pigeon-hole his sound. Considering his previous musical work, Number One Cup, it's obvious that O'Connell is a musician that spans styles.
Though he does show off his ability to play a tune with a solid, steady thumb, he is just as likely to play it subtlety to hold the bottom down and allow plenty of room for the melody to shine. With his penchant for glissando and judicious use of bends he leads us down a very melodic path. His unhurried style is a bit deceptive. Like riding a bike slowly, it's much more difficult than at a moderate speed. It requires skill.
His pace reveals his skill at injecting emotion into the songs. As O'Connell says, "I strive to emphasize moments of beauty and grace rather than the dissonance and tension that have become so commonplace in finger style guitar music. The tunes are brief and stripped of any unnecessary indulgences. It is my hope that they complement each other and provide the listener with a consistent theme throughout."
Despite my association of O'Connell with John Fahey (you can find more than a few Fahey tabs on the net with O'Connell's name on them), this release isn't Fahey-esque in style although he does include a cover of Sligo River Blues. All the other songs are O'Connell originals. A glance at the list of O'Connell's influences include William Ackerman. Anyone hanging around in the Fahey/Takoma circles knows that takes guts. Ackerman is widely acknowledged as the father of new age music. I have my own views about that.
Be sure to visit his MySpace for more tunes and watch for an official release sometime in August.