Pretty Little Mountain …
Some Reviews and a Conversation About the Songs …
“Even during my first listening to Pat Maloney's songs, they seemed somewhat familiar. It's his plainspoken singing style and quiet, subtle arrangements that drew me in and made me want to listen. But, ultimately, it was the mature, often dreamlike, poetry of his lyrics which seems to reveal more each time I listen, that have held me and brought me back again.
In many of Maloney's songs there's a fascinating juxtaposition of the real and surreal. In "Noah's Ark," for example, he sings as a spurned lover, who sees himself as the last man on earth, drinking by himself in his loneliness as he watches the animals assemble two by two. In "Roll on Evangeline," Maloney effectively compares the game of life to games of chance, while in "Clown in the Puddle," he paints the scene of a parade of unrelated characters marching to the sound of a big bass drum.
My favorite song on the album is "Red Bandana," a dreamy song in which Maloney uses the image of a red bandana to tie together several themes, including the death of Al Grierson. the red bandana-wearing, Texas-based, Canadian singer-songwriter who was killed in a flash flood in November 2000. Maloney dedicates the album to Grierson's memory and the only non-original song in the set is a touching version of Grierson's "Things That Never Added Up to Me."
The album is sparingly produced with restrained backing from just a couple of other musicians--including his wife Rosie Maloney on harmonies, whistle and accordion--whose contributions nicely complement Maloney's guitar and voice.”
COPYRIGHT 2003 Sing Out Corporation
There may not be a single song here that flat out floors the listener like the title cut of his last release, "Perfect Oblivious Moon," which is one of the best songs ever written. But this offering possesses strengths of its own. Multiple ones.
So looking at the present rather than the past, the enjoyment derived from these 13 songs are due to the collective observations, insights and profundities proffered by Maloney.
A simple yet touching example is a verse from "The World Looks Blue From Mars":
"...In the midst of this profusion, the earth looks so alone
It lies amongst the splendor like a little shiny stone
Dressed in simple colors like a poor girl at a dance
A lonely, fragile beauty, with a proud defiant stance..."
Powerful in its entirety, but the specific line "...dressed in simple colors like a poor girl at a dance..." is such a vivid and moving metaphor.
Maloney has always danced somewhat with the oblique in his lyrics and does even enjoyably more so with this CD. The marvelous "Red Right Returning" is such a song.
In "Noah's Ark," he contrasts the biblical, two-by-two pairing up of animals with being solo, not being the one chosen for a relationship.
The word 'who' gets multiple and varied uses in the touching cut of the same name, as a little boy, still crying out the same question, grows to young adulthood.
Depicting a traveler's journey in the title cut "Pretty Little Mountain," Maloney sings:
"...I got no problem with the master design
Just wish the painter was a better friend of mine
Or that he would at least send me a sign
Whether I should go, or I should stay..."
In "Roll On Evangeline," he speaks of the title character's relationships:
"...Of course the game is rigged in this crooked house of cards
But when the roof caves in we'll play poker in the yard
And where a lesser soul would falter and begin to not believe
You'll be standing at the table with a heart up every sleeve..."
As part of a tribute to his late friend Al Grierson, Maloney borrows from the Grierson songbook and performs a forceful version of "Things That Never Added Up To Me." He also dedicates the aforementioned "The World Looks Blue From Mars," an intriguing song about the relationship to and of all things, to Grierson, as well as mentioning his passing in "Red Bandanna."
Despite minimal backing, Maloney makes each song sound distinct, while dipping into that deep well of singer/songwriters, relationships, from a variety of angles and viewpoints. He simply keeps getting better and, better yet, his material is more interesting with each release.
Pat Maloney, on vocals and acoustic guitar, is assisted by Rosie Maloney on backup vocals, whistle, accordian and bodhran; Steve Piper on backup vocals and electric and acoustic guitar; Nancy Dalessandro on electric guitar and shaker and William Meldrum on shaker, hand drum and cabasa.
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“Pat Maloney is at least as impressive on stage as he is in the studio. Maloney is a great talent. His songs, rich in the poetry of straight talk, contain dramatic images and deft turns of phrase. He is an exhilarating, emotional performer. One is reminded of John Prine because his voice carries the same kind of gruff sentimentality but Maloney is certainly nobodies clone… Folk musician though he basically is, he avoids the lugubrious and self righteous pitfalls of 90’s stool and guitar work”
Chuck Cuminale City Newspaper- Rochester, NY
“He accomplishes with ease what eludes so many other performers; He commits songs to tape brimming with sincerity and warmth.”
Dave Kostek City Newspaper, Rochester, NY
“…an observant lad with strong musical instincts, genuine wit and a flair for the English Language.”
Tucson Weekly 3/99
“It has been said of Pat Maloney that he "writes great poetry that happens to be set to music" and I would never err by offering a rejoinder to that; just let me add that it is poetry in the everyday language of living. There is a strain of the Irish flowing through these songs, but they are as American as Bob Dylan or John Prine. His wife Rosie often accompanies him on penny whistle and the flat Irish drum as well as harmonies and on a mystical song such as "Down To The River On A Fine Brown Horse" - it works to perfection. His imagery verges on the surreal at times, but does not at any time strain the bonds of credulity. As he weaves his melodic tales one cannot help but be caught up and carried along in the torrent of words. I highly recommend that you go to see him and listen to him and be transported. I feel certain that his music will be even more magical in person than on this recording…” Nightflying
A Recommended Songwriter
“Doffing my “self-promoting songwriter” cap and putting on my “rabid fan and recovering music critic cap,” I want to offer an unsolicited and wholly enthusiastic plug for a songwriter I think the whole world deserves to know about-Pat Maloney from Dewey, AZ.
Pat has a couple of self-produced recordings out: a CD, “The Loneliness Birds,” and a cassette, “The Train That ShookThe Hotel,” featuring some of the finest writing I’ve encountered in years. He has the rare gift of being not only a supremely intelligent and literate lyricist but also a composer of highly memorable and singable melodies. He’s also one of those folks who can navigate their way safely through places where lesser talents would stumble and fall.
I first encountered him at Kerrville this year where he was accompanied by his wife Rosie on tin whistle doing a song from “The Loneliness Birds” called “The Ghost of Billy Fink” and as he kept reeling off line after line of fine and frightening surrealist images I kept waiting for him to screw it up and set a foot firmly in the dog’s business, all the while praying that he wouldn’t. He didn’t, and to quote a line from another of his songs, he doesn’t “most of the time.” His songs also share another feature with the best out there - they not only stand up to repeated listening, they get better - this from one of the most opinionated curmudgeons on this list. The guy is not just good; he’s damn good! Al Grierson Folk DJ List Oct. 1997
“…If Christy Brown could have expressed himself through music, it might have sounded a lot like Pat Maloney…” Tucson Weekly
“…He’s like a mix of Stephen Foster and a surreal John Prine…”
A Conversation About The Songs…
I love to talk about the songs I’ve written – mostly because I don’t always know where I’m going when I write them and talking about them reveals things about them I wasn’t always aware of when I wrote them. First of all, when I think about this whole CD, I think of friends. I was feeling very strongly about the friends I have made on this journey of mine and how blessed and lucky I am. This CD is much simpler and stripped down musically than my last CD, Perfect Oblivious Moon. I wanted it to sound like I would sound if you caught my act live. It’s mostly me, my wife Rosie, and my good friend, Steve Piper. It was recorded, as my last CD was, at Playr Recording by my good friend Kyle Harris, who, along with being a good friend, has the best ears and instincts of anyone I have ever worked with.
Track 1 “Pretty Little Mountain”
This song started out as a bunch of images that made an impression on me as I have traveled about the country. It metamorphosed into a sort of meditation on the many gifts the road has to offer as opposed to the warmth and comfort that a fixed address can give you. In my mind, this road lead through all the living rooms and kitchens of friend’s houses and how each stop calls out to you to stay and bask in that warmth. It lead to the question in the song that says, “…Where does freedom end and endless searching start?”
I was living in Dewey Arizona for awhile and across the dirt road, in the distance a ways, was this little mountain that, as I watched it each morning, would change colors from pink, to purple, to deep blue as the sun came up. That mountain was my talisman for awhile. It always made me feel something special. I like the sound of the phrase – Pretty Little Mountain – because a mountain, by its own definition, is big. I like the Zen feel of that. I also am put in mind of Donovan’s song- “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is…”
Track 2 “Red Haired Girl”
This is just one of them typical songs about a man complaining of the fickleness of woman. Tongue in cheek, of course. My wife has red hair so I have had twenty years or so of close personal contact with a “Red Haired Girl.” This is always fun for me to sing.
Track 3 “El Nino”
A few years back, the phrase “El Nino” started being used ad nauseum. Every rain storm or warm spell was blamed on El Nino. I just started looking at the phrase from different angles. Behind all this, I’m sure, is my distaste for TV news and the way they harp on subjects and coin phrases and leap on every new concept until you feel like you have been bludgeoned to death.
I had been working on a farm with a large extended Mexican family and they invited Rosie and I home for Christmas. We fell in love with Mexico and the people there. I love the bright colors and the warmth of the people and the different food and the tropical feel. So, this song takes you from a night club in pre-revolutionary Havana (imagined, of course) through the streets of a small village in Mexico celebrating a religious holiday in wonderful pagan style, to a blow dry, moussed weatherman reporting on a weather pattern with a frozen smile on his face, spouting lines from a teleprompter while a storm blows in the background, and winds up in the arms of a beautiful, sultry, Latin woman as she drowns you in her voluptuous charms. All the while, El Nino, however you define it, is having its way with you.
Track 4 “Noah’s Ark”
I thought the concept for this song was funny – a guy who winds up all by himself on Noah’s Ark. In other words, his mate would rather face extinction than have anything to do with him. My sense of humor, admittedly, is not always mainstream, and when I play this song, a lot of people think it is very sad. Of course, I come from that line of Irish folks who crack wise at the gravesite- even their own. So, funny or not, this is a song about not being chosen. I really meant this to be tongue in cheek and chose clunky rhymes and over the top analogies to accent the ridiculousness of this subject. It works for some.
Track 5 “Things That Never Added Up To Me”
This is a song written by my late friend, Al Grierson. It is also the title track of an album he put out a few years back. Al was a unique and beautiful human being but I’m not going to go into all of that here. Google Al and you will get a small taste of his character. He got washed away in a flash flood in Texas and raised the bar of romantic deaths. I always loved this song of his and I sing it here with utmost respect and admiration for Al and his songs. I hope that comes through.
Track 6 “Roll On, Evangeline”
I have a good friend, Evangeline, who is one of those people blessed with a sunny disposition and never a bad word for anyone, a person whose smile lights up a room. A couple years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through that harrowing time with the indomitable spirit and grace that she has always shown. She loves card games and gambling and music. I use lots of gambling analogies in this song I wrote for her while she was going through chemotherapy. She’s an inspiration to me and I can still see her, with her shaved head, reading the lyrics of this song. Roll On, indeed.
Track 7 “Pablo’s Blues”
Another friend inspired this song. This is an older song that I probably wouldn’t have included on the CD, but Evangeline asked me too. It is a simple blues song about a fellow who just can’t seem to make it work with women. My friend, Paul, is one of the greatest guys I have ever met but never has good luck romantically. Thus, the line in the song: “How can a man have everything that he wanted to have but still there’s something missing?”
Track 8 “Red Bandanna”
This song starts out as a dream. A beautiful woman enters a low down dive of a bar and blesses all the broken down men who are there. When she leaves, she leaves behind her red bandanna which is the thing that ties all the verses together. Her presence was a gift that floats through the lives of the men assembled – like love or inspiration. The dreamer wakes to startling reality – an explosion in his life – and must carry on. The red bandanna appears again to beckon him onwards. The last verse is about a poet who followed his inspiration or his muse and is carried off by life but who leaves behind his work and his example. I guess if I analyze this I would say the explosion was 9/11 and the poet in the song was my buddy, Al Grierson. But I hate to analyze my songs too closely – I love the inexact feeling that this song gives me and I like to climb into different places in the song and feel the things that I first felt when I wrote it. I hope others can go to those places also, with a red bandanna tied rakishly around their necks.
Track 9 “Clown In The Puddle”
This song is a parade. Now, I’ve always had mixed feelings about parades. I’m always excited about going to them and I’m stirred by the music and the images but I am always ready for them to end. They go on too long – a bit like this song. Anyway, this song has all the requisite ingredients of any good parade – A marching band- horses- firemen- Veterans – protest groups- hucksters selling balloons and cotton candy – rain- and, of course, clowns. I have to admit, I am a clownaphobe. Garishly painted adults who leer into the faces of little children. Frightening! I have found many fellow members of my support group when I play this song in performance. They all cheer when the clown gets his feet wet.
You know that Boogie Man who used to live beneath your bed when you were little? Well, he’s still hanging around in the disguise of heartbreak and loneliness. This song takes you from being a little boy, listening from his bed to a train whistle to a boy having nightmares to a young man who has lost his love. All the time he is wondering who is going to comfort him and make him feel less lost. And through the song is that spooky sound that you hear in all the scary movies – Whooooooo…
Track 11 “Red, Right, Returning”
I came across that phrase, “Red, Right, Returning,” when I was visiting some friends in Utah a few years ago. They were studying for their Captain’s exam so they could pilot tour boats on nearby Lake Powell. The phrase is used to remind you that when you are traveling up-lake, returning to the source of the water, you keep the red buoys to your right. I felt that that phrase was so poetic and I carried it around in my head for a few years. These friends were part of a large extended family whose charismatic patriarch succumbed to cancer. I imagined my friends putting the patriarch’s body in a boat, setting it afire, and sending it out on the lake as if he was a Viking Warrior. A proper sendoff. And, what is left of our lives when you sift through the ashes?
Track 12 “Strange Wind”
One late night I was sitting at my desk, listening to the wind blow and trying to write a song about it. Suddenly the wind gusted and came in the window and blew my papers all over the room. I realized the wind did not like the idea of me trying to figure him out. “We all have our secrets to keep.”
Track 13 “The World Looks Blue From Mars”
I read about an astronaut who was describing what the earth looked like from space. I got to thinking that maybe you really do need some distance from things to get a good perspective. Then, I thought about my wife Rosie and the travels we have made in our van. (It’s a conversion van- A StarCraft- Perfect, huh?)
I have never been able to write a straight out love song and this song attempts that – a love song not only to Rosie but to the whole damn thing we call Earth. So, as we sit in our van, down by some river on Mars, I am looking out into the Heavens and trying to gain some perspective. I’m not sure what to make of it but I know that I feel beauty and love and awe and, damn, the world looks blue from Mars.