Pat Kearns is a familiar name around Portland, Oregon where he spent some 15 years fronting power-pop outfit Blue Skies for Black Heart as well as producing other local acts, barely ever venturing over the state line. That is until he and his wife upped sticks and moved out to the desert to live in Joshua Tree. That move gave birth to this stripped down solo debut, the two opening tracks, the wistful near six-minute acoustic strummed When You’re New to Town with its train whistle intro, pedal steel and harmonica and the equally harmonica-featuring title track both referencing a theme of relocation and the mixed emotions that go with it.
Kearns is very much the intimate troubadour and, while there are musically uptempo tracks in We’re Friends with its drums and fuzzy guitars and the Lauren Canyon-echoing Hit The Highway (another getup and take the chance song), it’s the softer, slower introspective balladry that provides the album’s heart and backbone.
Kearns’ sweet, sometimes falsetto vocals (as on the slow, soulful I’ve Seen The Light Some Of Us Never Will and a bluesy Past Lives) offer restful listening, even if, as on From Prom Queen to Queen Bitch and the rhythmically puttering semi-spoken The Oldest Trick in The Book with its distant organ, the lyrics can be barbed.
You can hear assorted influences at work, among them Dylan, McGuinn, Dewey Bunnell and early Jeff Tweedy while slow waltzing, summer lazing, strummed closer Will You Come With Me Where I Go with its lengthy guitar break suggests Sam Cooke may be in there too. A quietly unassuming album, I have to confess, that, on first listening, I wasn’t persuaded, but repeat plays reveal its immense charms. As he says, singing about struggling to read The Great Gatsby, “sometimes you’ve got to finish the book twice.”
So Long City is released on November 2nd
More here: www.patkearnsmusic.com