Pat Simmons Jr.- T
Pat Simmons Jr.- This Mountain
The debut EP from singer/songwriter Pat Simmons Junior, This Mountain, is a collection of original material about his life on the island of Maui, Hawaii. There’s a real sense of chops informing this six song set, but it’s an equally entertaining mix of songs influenced by traditional island folk music and light rock with lots of acoustic textures. His debut is produced by Simmons’ father, former Doobie Brothers member Pat Simmons Senior, and proves the abiding truth of artistic talent running through DNA. The songwriting and performances alike reflect Simmons’ close relationship with his homeland as well as his concern for life’s stories in all of their various forms. This is a rewarding release from beginning to end and couples weighty themes with invigorating musical landscapes that seem to effortlessly emerge from Simmons’ imagination.
“Up and Out by Five” has a light jazzy swing and a nice combination of acoustic and electric guitars. The latter is sparingly employed throughout the track and adds a nice amount of color to an otherwise relatively sedate number. Simmons Jr. has a voice with plenty of melodic appeal, but it sports an unlikely weathered edge that brings a little extra gravitas to his vocal. There’s some nice slide guitar, an instrument with its some of its roots in Hawaiian music, punctuating the opening of “Rust” and recurring throughout the song. The vocal here has a much glossier, melodious surface than the opener, but it’s no less for it and nicely contrasts the track’s rustic flavors. There’s some unexpected and highly stylish keyboard flairs buried just under the song’s surface. “Mauna Mete” is a lovely meander with a light pastoral glow. The song never gets ahead of its self and Simmons Jr. gives another lovely bluesy vocal that lights up the song just enough. Some more tasty guitar songs appear in the mix and fill the arrangement with color.
“How Many Years” is pure blues and built around the trio of Simmons’ vocal, acoustic guitar, and occasional wails of plaintive harmonica. His voice is doubly tracked in some places, but the effect is never laid on too thick. The full band comes in after a while, but the additional string instruments and percussion share the same penchant for understatement defining much of the album. There’s a stronger electric guitar presence than elsewhere during certain passages of “Touch the Ground”, but the same focus on melody and unusual changes remains in full evidence on the EP’s penultimate tune. The EP’s finale “All the Way” revisits the amiable jazzy bounce of the opener, but it has a looser and boozier charm than we heard on the opener and owes a clear debt to the blues. It’s a powerful and self-assured first effort from Simmons Jr. and it isn’t hard to clamor for what a full length might offer listeners.
9 out of 10 stars