A Patrick Hat-Trick, Plus One

The Guy in Black is BACK: Authentically Jersey country singer/songwriter Michael Patrick invades The Saint in downtown Asbury on October 22, for the first of FOUR wildly different events celebrating his new release ANOTHER SONG YOU NEVER HEARD.

First time we ever heard tell of the man called Michael Patrick, the Morganville-bred country singer-songwriter was NOT putting forth a set of his characteristically warm ‘n witty, trad ‘n true originals with his band The Suburban Hillbillies. He was NOT fronting his acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute project Michael Patrick’s Ring of Fire Band, a heartfelt endeavor that’s taken him up and down the eastern half of these United States, and brought him a stamp of approval (along with the odd opening gig) from the likes of Carlene Carter and Rosanne Cash. Hell, he wasn’t even anywhere near chaw-spittin distance of a guitar or microphone.

The particular hat that Mr. Patrick was wearing that night — and by hat, we mean imaginary; not the no-cattle kind sported by the Nashville flavor/savior of the month — was as tireless impresario behind the Suburban Roots Concert Series, a very loose and very occasional vehicle by which Patrick has taken it upon himself to import some of the most exciting young talents in alt-country and Americana, to some of the most unlikely Jersey Shore venues ever to host a HeeHaw hootenanny.

When way-cool next-gen rebel Justin Townes Earle played The Claddagh Irish bar in Highlands, Michael Patrick was the guy behind the scenes. When awesome new traditionalist Pokey LaFarge — one of the greatest entertainers we’ve ever seen — took the stage of a bowling alley lounge in Bradley Beach, you could bet Patrick had a hand in that. And when no less a progeny than John Carter Cash came to Tim McLoone’s swanky Supper Club on the Asbury boards, Mike Patrick was already on the scene — tending to details; checking out sound and sightlines from every conceivable angle; removing the blue M&Ms from the dressing room and just generally remaining a body in motion not unlike your grandma hosting the family at the holidays (“Ma! Siddown and eat, you’re makin’ everyone nervous!”).

This Saturday night, October the DoubleDeuce, it’s all about the Patrick — and the Hat Trick, by which we mean the release of his THIRD independently issued album of songs, a set by the name of Another Song You Never Heard. The most assured session yet from MP, the album finds this refreshingly old-school professor lending the full faith and credit of his classic voice (think of the plainspeak elegance of Hank Snow, Sonny James, Porter Wagoner and Tom T Hall) to a fun bunch of compositions that address such universal topics as growing old, moving on, staying put, and the eternal plight of the barband entertainer.

The venue for the CD release event is arguably an unlikely one — downtown Asbury’s rockin’ roadhouse railroad car The Saint — until you consider that the venerable alternative rock club has also offered up snug harbor for Americana, acousticana and bammalamma acts of every conceivable star and stripe. It’s the inaugural stop on a multi-date, “MP4” CD release schedule that will also see Patrick take his new songs to a Bayshore coffeehouse, a bluegrass-infused church, and that welcoming temple of pinewoods traditionalism, Waretown’s fabled Albert Music Hall.

UpperWETside rang up this Jersey-fresh font of homespun wisdom and one-man musical movement in the midst of a typically frantic week. So make your selection, insert some southern juke coin and watch the record play.

upperWETside: So Mike, every time we glom onto another of your gigs it’s not only in a completely different sort of venue, but you’re playing to a completely different, mutually exclusive, never-the-twain-shall-meet kind of audience. What I’m sayin’, kiddo, is that in this age of market fragmentation, is THIS any way to build a fanbase?

MICHAEL PATRICK: Well, it’s definitely a grass roots way of going about things — but since we’re a little light on country bars around here, it kind of forces me to be creative! I mean, I’ll play the Albert Music Hall any chance I get; it’s a lot of fun and it means a lot to be accepted by the crowd down there — but then I’ll play a place like the Saint, to a totally different set of people, because you wouldn’t expect the Albert Hall crowd to show up at The Saint!

So I’ll play everything from The Stone Pony to township events; nursing homes, bowling alleys — a couple weekends ago I did the Chili Festival in Keyport! We got a good crowd, too — although it hit 88 degrees, not what we were expecting for October.

Well, you’re definitely not what folks usually expect to see over at The Saint — although I’d argue that the place has a solid, boxcar sort of roadhouse feel that makes a good fit for rootsy, Americana type acts.

It does, and it’s also got a CBGB feel that I appreciate. And a great sound system. I wanted to keep my CD release show in the Asbury Park area; I’ve grown really fond of the city over the past year, and it seems like no matter what kind of music you’re doing there’s an opportunity to be heard.

I oughta point out that this is the first of FOUR parties to celebrate the new CD — I wanted each one to be in a different sort of venue, a different crowd and atmosphere. So I’m doing one in a BAR, that’s the Saint on the 22nd; then one in a COFFEEHOUSE, Espresso Joe’s in Keyport on the 28th.

On November 12th I go back to Albert Hall to do a set there — they’re givin’ me a half hour set at 8:00; last time I played there I got a standing ovation. And on the 20th I’ll be at this church in Little Silver, the Embury United Methodist, where the Bluegrass & Oldtime Music Association of NJ have their meetings and jam sessions.

Saturday night at an Asbury rock bar, Sunday morning coming down in a church — sounds about right.

Ha! Yeah, it’s a well rounded life. I’ve been keepin’ busy; and meanwhile I’ve been dealing with a case of vertigo, which is making me crazy.

Surely deriving from those dizzying career heights that you’ve scaled in recent months.

Not exactly! And on top of everything else I’ve had people criticize my album title — correcting my grammar, tellin’ me it should be Another Song YOU’VE Never Heard. I tell ’em, it’s COUNTRY GRAMMAR!

You can mess with Texas, you can mess with Texas Road in Old Bridge, but never mess with a country title.

Great songs come from great titles. I have one by the name of “Callin’ In Well” — where that name comes from is something that a guy said to me once, about giving yourself a day off from work — “you could call in sick, or you could call in well…I’m callin’ in well.”

I have another song on the new album that I think you’ll appreciate — it’s called “I’m Still Young,” and it’s from the point of view of a guy who finally has to admit that time is catchin’ up with him. Kind of like us! So there’s definitely more humor on this record than I’ve done in the past.

I’m guessing that a lot of this material is gonna be front and center at the upcoming shows…what else can you tell us about the new CD?

I actually recorded it with a bunch of session players in Nashville. Guys like Tim Lorsch on fiddle and mandolin — guys that have played with people like Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson!

Listen to this, the drummer on the album has played with Carlene Carter, Roseanne Cash, and The Highwaymen! And the guy who plays keyboard and harmonica? He’s played with Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis — and George Jones!!

Jumpin’ Jehosophat. It’s like recording with Mount fucking Rushmore. Were you like, can I touch the sleeve of your garment?

I wasn’t even in the same room with those guys! I did my vocals up here in a local studio. But it sounds great; it’s got a fuller sort of sound than my earlier recordings — more production; even an edgier side in certain spots, like some distorted guitar.

I’d put it as a mix of different styles — a natural progression; there’s more of me, along with everything else I soaked up along the way. Some gospel, ragtime piano, some folky things.

So assuming those Nashville Cats aren’t making the trip here to do the local gigs, are you working with your regular band?

I wanted to keep these songs as a separate sort of project, so I’m working with some different people — Mike Noordzy on bass, the drummer from the Old No. 7’s; Taylor Hope on fiddle; Marty Cohl on guitar, from a Neil Young tribute band called Rust.

I’m lining up the other bands for the Saint gig, too. I gotta make it a SHOW, y’know? There’s Matt Kay, a local songwriter I’ve been appreciating for a while; Jim Popik — and this jug band from Staten Island that I discovered, called the Wahoo Skiffle Crazies! They use washtub bass, saw, the works.

See, I’ve always trusted your instincts and deferred to your judgment on new country and roots stuff, ever since you introduced me to Pokey La Farge. I owe you big time for that one. So who do you like these days, that I might not be that familiar with?

Oh boy, let’s see, out of the more popular stuff, I like The Avett Brothers, Todd Snider — people who are looking for something a little different from mainstream country can check out The Two Man Gentlemen Band, and I really like the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Other than that, I stick with my trustworthy favorites — Chris Knight, Justin Townes Earle.

You hear from Justin much these days since he made the GQ Best Dressed list?

I can’t get him to return my calls these days! But oh, I’ve seen him in ripped jeans. I’ve seen him lookin’ just like his dad!

So now that you’ve “gone Nashville” — ahem — is the plan to employ the new album as sort of a songwriter’s calling card; maybe latch onto a sweet deal like…

Like John Eddie, right? Ha! I wouldn’t mind something like that happening to me — I think Eddie bought himself a house off of “Low Life.” But really, he’s been a great influence — just a really good songwriter and an energetic performer with star quality. I’ve been going to see him for play for years and he’s just as great as ever — I remember seeing him at Birch Hill years ago, he had a fan blowin’ his hair onstage for extra rock star effect (laughs).

But as far as actually moving to Nashville, I don’t know about that. There’s not a huge country music scene on the Jersey Shore, but I’d rather be one of ten HERE, than one of a million in Nashville!