Patrick Simmons Jr. – This Mountain
The six song collection This Mountain marks the beginning of Patrick Simmons Jr.’s musical career and has memorable qualities. Its mix of high and low fi qualities is perfectly balanced, Simmons shows he’s an effective if not outright brilliant singer each time out, and the songs are tailored both to a fine point in terms of exploring their subject but, likewise, never overextend themselves. There’s a great deal of artistry that goes into cutting an album with such depth, entertainment value, and easy going confidence. Simmons Junior’s bearing comes, undoubtedly, from his genes. His father Pat Simmons Senior is a founding member of the seminal 1970’s hit makers The Doobie Brothers and his production efforts on This Mountain help ensure that his musical progeny has the best possible presentation for his debut. These are six songs that never press the listener, but they are imbued with their own urgency and demeanor quite unlike anything out there today.
This Mountain opens with “Up and Out By Five”. The song has a lightly celebratory air with quicksilver electric guitar licks ornamenting the short bounce of acoustic guitar underpinning the performance. Simmons explores the higher reaches of his register on this release and never sounds uncomfortable. He manages to even incorporate a slightly bluesy side into the singing that deepens its effects. The second song “Rust” is much more restrained in character and has a laid back air streaked with short, mournful lines of slide guitar. Simmons turns in an even nicer vocal on this track. It’s perfectly molded around the musical arrangement and Simmons does a fantastic job of placing his voice in the ideal slots. The sleepy elegance of “Mauna Mele” feels like the closest connection to Simmons’ Hawaiian life, but he never goes so far with the song that it shuts the average listener out of the experience. It has a loose shouldered mosey that will draw anyone in. It has a light blues influence, but it isn’t nearly as close to that particular strain as “How Many Years”. The first half of the song is total blues with just Simmons’ vocal, harmonica, and acoustic guitar. The band emerges after a brief time with a great straight forward attack of drums and additional guitar.
There’s a little country music influence coming through on “Touch the Ground”, but Simmons possesses enough of an individualistic songwriting sensibility that changing gears some never proves to be problematic for him. His vocal has the same wonderfully lazy quality as the tempo and the bracing flares of electric guitar filling the song make it quite different from anything before or after. “All the Way” is a stylish blues to close the EP with and Simmons gives listeners another show-stopping vocal that works particularly well with its musical setting. The gorgeous piano playing on the song has a tasty rolling quality. Simmons’ release succeeds along a host of fronts – the songwriting has a personal quality, but extends itself to meet the audience halfway and bring them along for the ride. It has grace, light sophistication, and an approachable tenor that ensures it will be enjoyed by many.
9 out of 10 stars