On this particular Oct. 9th morn, Matt Patershuk is very thankful.
Well, perhaps that’s because the northern Alberta artist’s beloved Oilers have yet to take the ice.
But before they fell at the hands of the J-E-T-S Jets! the songwriter was in a good mood and had reason to be in a positive, hopeful, and, yes, giving-of-thanks frame of mind.
Other than the bright future of the orange-and-blue ’Bertans — long-term, that is — he is, after all, celebrating the release of his third and latest studio album Same As I Ever Have Been.
But, contrary to the titular proclamation, it’s not the same. Not even close. Yes, the quality is there, the same quality that made his 2016 release I Was So Fond Of You an endearing roots recording, one that had heart and soul and so much more.
His latest is a veritable horn o’ plenty — a bigger, better, bolder, louder, fuller, more confidently served plate of blues, rock, country and Canadiana, with an extra helping of musical mashed potatoes and gravy, Marie.
“It’s a bit different from the last couple I’ve done,” Patershuk admits. “I kind of wanted to do that, approach it a bit more, like, I wanted to be on my toes a bit more — to use a hockey term, I guess. And sometimes I got a little intimidated by the quality of people that played with me and the fact that I was making a record. There’s a certain presumption in doing that and it can be a little intimidating and I really made a conscious effort to not be intimidated and to take as big a bite out of this record in the way I approached it as I could.
“And I think it comes through.”
It does. As does the musician’s varied tastes, Patershuk explaining he wanted to paint with a broader brush on Same As, mentioning Steve Earle’s “eclectic” Transcendental Blues and the late, lamented Tom Petty and his records that “dipped into a few wells” as guide posts.
That comes across on the album’s 12 tracks, which shuffle effortlessly from the skronky, growling Morphine-esque opener Sometimes You’ve Got to Do Bad Things to Do Good, the dusky, two-stepper Gypsy and the raging Cheap Guitar to the slow, gorgeous Waits-meets-Cave tune Memory and the First Law of Thermodynamics and the straight-up heartland, weepy C&W of Boreal.
And that confidence? Patershuk admits that he was “less afraid of the process … I tried to approach it with no fear,” but says there was no moment or one particular come-to-Jesus point prior to the recording where he put any and all doubts behind him.
In fact, it was more the recording process, itself, that brought out the best in his material. For that, he turned once again to producer Steve Dawson, convening with the Canadian roots staple at Bryan Adams’s Warehouse Studio in Vancouver.
That, Patershuk says, helped him focus entirely on the music and what he wanted to accomplish with it.
“I think that’s a good thing, yeah, just that people know that you’re away, so work’s not calling or if the pipes break at home, there’s nothing that you can do about it, you’re still making the record,” he says.
And were there any plumbing emergencies at his La Glace abode while he was away?
“No, but funnily enough the main electrical service to the house did just (fail) the other day, so this afternoon I’m digging that up,” he says with a laugh. “But I think it is good to set that time away to say, ‘This is what I’m doing,’ because you only do get one crack at it, especially when you’re recording live, off-the-floor, so you want to be in the right headspace.”
It helped, too, that joining him in the studio for those live sessions was an incredible collection of musicians assembled by Dawson, including frequent collaborators John Reischman, Ana Egge, Chris Gestrin and Jeremy Holmes.
“What the album is is such a huge part of them,” he says, noting that their contributions and skills changed the songs from how he’d originally conceived them. “It’s a wonderful process to watch that happen to your song in front of your eyes. I can’t say enough about Steve or the rest of the band — what they added, it was pretty fantastic.
“It’s funny just having my name on the front of it, because it’s not just me. But that’s just the way it goes.”
Perhaps one of the most notable musicians from a very notable crew sitting in on the sessions was L.A. drummer Jay Bellerose, a member of Joe Henry’s band who has also played with everyone from Alison Krauss and Robert Plant on their Raising Sand project to B.B. King, Solomon Burke, Rhiannon Giddens, Billy Bragg and Rickie Lee Jones. He was flown in for the recording because both Patershuk and Dawson are huge fans of his work, the latter having recently interviewed him for his weekly podcast Music Makers and Soul Shakers.
Patershuk calls the vet a “modest guy,” who brought to the studio a “spirit of creativity,” and who, rather than dominating things, was more than happy to be a part of the band, there to make things better and bigger.
And the songwriter admits that the recording of Same As I Ever Have Been has made him want to bring that bigness to his live shows, ramping and amping it up with his band The Straight Arrows.
“It’s a lot of fun to play, because a lot of them are a bit louder, you can interact a bit more with the crowd that way,” he says. “It’s been fun.”
Southern Alberta (i.e. Flames folks) will have the opportunity to see and connect with them when they hit town this weekend for the annual rootstravaganza that is Wide Cut Weekend, Oct. 13 and 14. Patershuk, who performed last year, is also looking forward to it, calling the event one that’s defined by a “relaxed, easygoing feel.”
“I can’t really say enough about it, we’re really looking forward to it,” he says, mentioning the almost “familial” relationship between all of the artists. “Everybody’s so excited for each other and excited to hear each other — it’s a cool thing to be around, for sure.”
One for which he gives thanks. At a time when there are many things to be thankful for.
“You betcha,” he says, before adding for the interviewer’s benefit, “Go Devils!”
A six-two win, by the way.
Thanks for asking.
Matt Patershuk performs Friday, Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. at the Ironwood and 10:30 p.m. at the Royal Canadian Legion No. 1, and Saturday, Oct. 14 at 9 p.m. at Mikey’s Juke Joint as part of Wide Cut Weekend. For tickets go to Heritage Posters and Music or click here. For more information please go to widecutweekend.com.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.com. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.