Patrick Ames plays and sings his junkyard blues to create earthy songs rooted in life. His latest seven-track LP Harmonium runs at about 21 minutes displays songs on democracy, global warming, love, parental relationships, and the pandemic. The San Francisco Bay Area Americana, folk, and soft rock artist is a veteran Californian musician. Being a vineyard proprietor and having years of experience in the bank, Patrick Ames brings light-heartedness, serious reflection, and other emotions on this record. Ames has been writing music since his teenage years in the 1960s.
The album begins with vinyl scratch samples on No People are Supreme which is a Jim Morrison and The Doors-influenced reflection on the precarity of our lives and the importance of getting together for democracy. The hummable chorus and arrangement prop up the message and the music. The second track Sometimes begins with tasteful percussion and acoustic guitars. It is a powerful folk song on climate change where Ames croons on the end of life as we know it and the lack of genuine attempts to abet environmental degradation. Ames’ vocal delivery is like fine wine on this one.
After some sombre topics, With Will I Ever Be Noticed we move to a more classic pop-rock musical direction while the theme is eternal romance. We have Chana Matthews providing the backup hum harmonies here. There are some great electric lead guitar lines and rhythm work on this song. We proceed further with the full-fledged rock track DontChaWanna which begins with a catchy guitar riff and vocal intro. It’s a straightforward song about simple aspirations in an ever-changing world. This is an energetic classic rock track that will remind you of the Yardbirds or soul-rock acts of the early 70s with its well-done vocal harmonies.
Is It Okay to Complain is a Wallace Stevens lyrical style ode to the relationship between a parent and their child as they grow over time. The emotive guitar solo on this song perfectly expresses the development of the offspring-parent relationship as age catches up with both of them. The penultimate Last Night Was No Mistake track begins with a spoken-word intro. The song is about opening one’s heart to someone who they feel is perfect. The album concludes with Grace, which quite literally is a light-hearted and mirth-filled expression of gratitude for existence after the pandemic.
The title of the album is inspired by American modernist poet Wallace Stevens’ 1923 debut poetry book of the same name. While attempting to set aside the tumultuous backdrop of the pandemic and war-struck world, Ames worked on songs inspired by Steven’s poetry. The album is masterfully produced by Jon Ireson who played instruments and programs the record to fit the songs well. His bass lines and guitar work on the album are great and serves the music of Ames. Chana Matthews adds the right amount of harmonic vocal sprinkling to elevate the production. Ames’ baritone voice and Dylan-like delivery make this a work of literary and artistic expression. On the whole, Harmonium works as a formidable folk and light rock work molded with poetry, social reflection, and love.