Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#706 in the Series) is Pat Green, Songs We Wish We’d Written II
In 2001, Pat Green, Texas Troubadour and “Grasshopper” to Texas Hill Country “Sensei’s” Jerry Jeff Walker, Joe Ely, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Tommy Alverson, released an album along with Cory Morrow that was called Songs We Wish We’d Written. The record as the name implies included an eclectic stable of songs that had become standards in their respective live shows and were tunes that had artistically influenced both of the young singer-songwriters. Some of the songs featured were straight up country classics like the Waylon Jennings hit “Are You Sure Hank Does it That Way” and the Jerry Jeff Walker regional beauty “Texas on My Mind”, and were featured side by side the more contemporary Classic Rock nuggets “Can’t Find My Way Home” and “Stuck in the Middle with You” by the late Gerry Rafferty. The relative success of this independent release turned the heads of certain music industry executives and turned the record from what should have been considered a coming out party to somewhat of an albatross.
Pat Green got his start in country music while attending college at Texas Tech University in Lubbock Texas where he cut his musical spurs alongside the likes of Robert Earle Keen, Lyle Lovett, and Joe Ely. His “burn down the barn” live shows and his road-dog touring mentality helped make him a fixture on the Texas Hill Country honky-tonk circuit and made him a household name from Gruene Hall in Fredericksburg all the way to Billy Bob’s in Ft. Worth, with a stop in Luchenbach along the way, where as they famously say “the only two things in life that make it worth living, are guitars that tune good and firm feeling women.”
Between 1998 and 2001 in quick succession Pat released 5 of the best examples of pure Texas Music that you will find anywhere. It was during this fertile period where I would have gladly stood on Jerry Jeff Walkers coffee table in my cowboy boots and proclaimed Pat Green the best Texas Country singer-songwriter in the Lone Star State. The great Dancehall Dreamer included the live staples “I Like Texas”, “Southbound 35”, and “Here We Go”, and the title track is a flat-out beautiful track for any genre. George’s Bar is stylistically somewhat of a sequel to “Dreamer” and with the possible exception of a Billy Joe Shaver album or two, could be one of the best Texas Music albums ever recorded. The title track makes you want to go find your own favorite local dive bar if you don’t already have one, and is so good it is rumored the reason Cheers was cancelled was because Norm started hanging out in “George’s Bar” and wouldn’t return to let Sam Malone serve him his beer. If you have never heard the song “Adios Days”, do yourself a favor and listen to it. It is one of those songs that will add six months to your life.
The last album in this series Three Days is a definite “desert Island” type of record that has a distinctly unpolished, really unspoiled country-feel to it. With some of his old classics like “South bound 35” and “Carry On” getting a bit of a spit-shine, and new beauties like “Texas on my Mind”, “Three Days”, “Threadbare Gypsy Soul” and “Whiskey” getting a first-listen, Green created his own personal Mona Lisa of songs in the classical country thematic mold of open spaces, whiskey, and wander-lust.
And then, and then………………………………………………….Pat Green disappeared.
In a severe case of not heeding the old Texas saying “go with the horse that brung ya”, and let’s be honest, a money grab, Green left the independent record labels that helped create his sound, moved to the not so friendly confines of Nashville, signed with a major label (Universal), and released Wave on Wave, his own personal “Heaven’s Gate”, a failure of epic proportions in more ways than one, and his first album to receive less than a four star rating on a five scale. This one earned a paltry two stars. Between 2009 and 2012 more Nash-Vegas style mediocrity followed with the mostly unlistenable non-gems Lucky Ones, Cannonball, and What I’m For.
And now, finally in 2012 in a moment of supreme triumph with the release of Songs We Wish We’d Written II, the prodigal son, the country boy with the rockers heart has returned, this time on the much more artist-friendly label Sugar Hill Records showing that the grass is not always greener in major-label land.
The sequel, this time recorded on his own, has all of the same country-rock, throw in a few surprises panache of the original recording along with a “glad to be home” fun feel to it that is exuberantly realized on “Soul shine” the Warren Haynes classic. You can’t help but smile when you hear this song no matter the artist, and in Green’s hands the song is terrific. The obligatory classic-rocker is the Tom Petty concert staple “Even the Losers” that goes from a piano ballad to an orchestral marvel at the blink of an eye. The best song of the lot is the Joe Ely penned opener “All Just to Get to You” which for me announces to the world that he has come back to his roots and is definitely here to stay. The set is only ten songs long but there is nary a clunker on the lot. A lot of people’s favorite Lyle Lovett song “If I had a Boat” is treated with the care it deserves, the ode to the live music capital of the world “Austin”, is a Tex Hill Country staple, and “Streets of Galilee” is just flat out a great song that quite frankly I wish I had written.
This album is a great, nostalgia type of a listen, one that will make you want to go back and find the original version of these classics.
At the end of the day, this morality tale of good prevailing over evil once again proves that unless you are a basketball player or a porn star, bigger is not always better. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the citizen that saw Pat Green’s face on the side of a milk carton, called the hot-line, and helped bring one of Texas’ favorite troubadours back home where he belongs, in the bars and honky-tonks of the Texas Hill Country.
Viva Terlingua, Viva Luchenbach, and Viva Pat Green.
- All Just to Get to You (Ely, Sexton) 3:51
- Streets of Galilee (Tasjan) 5:30
- Jesus on a Greyhound (Ballard, Lynne) 4:32
- Even the Losers (Petty) 3:49
- Austin (Randall) 3:43
- If It Weren’t For You (Rose, Wilkins) 3:55
- Soulshine (Haynes) 6:24
- The World I Know (Childress, Roland) 4:14
- If I Had a Boat (Lovett) 3:09
- I Am Too (Kimbrough, Snider) 4:13
- Pat Green – Guitar, Vocals
- Brendon Anthony – Banjo, Mandola, Mandolin, String Arrangements, Violin
- Clayton Corn – Accordion, Hammond B3, Piano,Vocals
- Brett Danaher – Guitar, Slide Guitar
- Monte Montgomery – Guitar
- Justin Pollard – Drums, Percussion, Producer
- Chris Skrobot – Guitar
- Michael Tarabay – Bass
- Aaron Lee Tasjan – Guitar
- Drew Womack – Vocals