Patrick Ames Evolves Lyrically Potent Blues, Funk, Soul and Folk Sound on “The Virtualistics”
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Independent Music Promotions
Composer and writer Patrick Ames continues to evolve his lyrically potent signature cocktail of junkyard blues on the new LP, “The Virtualistics.” due for release June 16th. The album contains 8 songs written during the pandemic by the Napa Valley-based artist, each one hopeful and resilient in its own distinct way. The album title was inspired by the nature of the recording style; although Patrick Ames writes the music and lyrics, much of his collaborations with producer Jon Ireson and backup singers Chana Matthews and Mikaela Matthews, have been virtual.
From the pandemic-inspired post-punk of “Second Wave” and “Essential Workers” to the funked up gospel rock of “Help People Up” and “Reawakened 2020” to the spacious, philosophical “Great Bunch of Molecules” and the bluesy, fun energy of “Rubber and Glue”, “Songwriter’s Block” and “You Make Me Scream”, Patrick Ames and The Virtualistics display a tenacious spirit throughout.
About “The Virtualistics”:
The Virtualistics. The band that never met. Remote collaboration is common but we never met during a difficult pandemic year. The four of us never practiced together. We didn’t sing together nor did we pre-plan the final sound. We were virtual entities, duly recording our tracks on various home devices and sending them in for assembly. Those famous photographs of The Virtualistics, studious musicians playing on stage, hard working in the studio, those tired looks of a fifth take, none of that happened. We never sang or played together.
Amazingly, it sounds like we were together, unvirtually, I guess is the word. It sounds like a 9-piece band that is funkin’ up the place even though we were half-depressed and struggled with work, virus, and bad politics. Half of the songs were released as singles mostly because I didn’t want to be depressed and fed upon that new release excitement every few months. It’s been a year of virtual studio sessions that require large leaps of faith when you’re contributing to a song that isn’t finished yet and sounded like a sketch. It’s like that group game where everyone adds one line to the preexisting story going around in a circle and by the time everyone speaks the story is unbelievably creative and interesting. Start with a few lyrics, add a riff or two, start weaving in counter melodies, add some phat beats – each song went around the Virtualistics circle a few times.
All these songs were recorded during the pandemic by The Virtualistics. – Patrick Ames
Jon Ireson, Producer, says: Patrick Ames and the Virtualistics
I mixed Patrick’s last album (Liveness) at the beginning of 2020 and by May he had more new material ready to be molded. Although the lyrical themes all come from Patrick, it definitely helps that we are on the same page politically/philosophically. As the tumultuous events of 2020 unfolded, the songs he was sending me about racial and social justice, trust in science, and the hard work of affecting positive transformation in the public square were echoing my own thoughts in real time. When the world goes haywire, music is there to make sense of it.
Album opener and lead single “Help People Up” will have an official music video release on June 16. The video was created by Blue Cafe Music.Watch “Help People Up” on Youtube.
In the heart of wine country in California, you may encounter the proper wordsmith and storyteller, Patrick Ames. Patrick is a man who plays to his own inner muse, revealing a complex set of inspirations and incantations from the eclectic songwriter. One can expect more than a dash of the raw, dark, and mournful, along with hopeless romance, artistic conviction, and a fiercely in-the-moment, DIY approach where the recording style is both instrument and live-ness detector.
And what you soon learn is that Patrick Ames is passionate. Writing/literature is a passion. Lyrics and poetry are passions. Melody/guitar/music writing is a passion. Nature and wine country are passions. Spirituality and inner connection, passion. Psychological pursuits, passion. Anything activist or community-related are passions. Knowledge, education, are passions.Ames smiles, "Wine makes you passionate."
Ames discusses growing up in a household full of music and how that became a part of his musical consciousness:
"My mother sang opera and also in the church choir (I'm a choir brat). My very older brothers listened to 1960s hits and bands, and my father to Pop radio. We were close to Detroit, so it was Motown, Motown, Motown, or Puccini. And for some reason I knew who the songwriters were, like Holland, Dozer, Holland. Then Glen Campbell broke through and I remember adoring him. He had a TV show. He had a guitar and he wrote songs! I still think his Wichita Lineman is extraordinary."
Ames started writing songs in 1968 when he was 14 years old. He inherited a guitar and dozens of classic albums from his older brothers who went off to college. An avid songwriter and performer during his own college tenure, he went into book publishing after attempting the music circuit in 1976. It would be 25 years before he would play seriously again. "I bought my son a cheap Fender and amp. He didn't like it. I loved it. I cranked it up and played with abandon. And then it all came back, in spades."
Much of Ames's professional life has been in technical book publishing, which for him carries several parallels to what he's doing now.
"Book publishing is exactly like being a music producer. The end product is a finished work of communication, and the path from early inspiration to finish is a drug. And you keep doing it to get the drug. Writing songs is like writing poems, only with more tools at your disposal: you have melody, rhythm, human voices, syncopation, and on and on. Songs can become these extraordinary 3D poems. And I think a good LP/EP is just like a book, with songs like chapters, and all these themes criss-crossing."
Now, in his early 60's, Ames has returned to songwriting armed with decades of word-smithing, book publishing, and decades of practice. Through a series of experimental EP and LP releases, including "Four Faces," "Like Family," "Affettuosos," "Standard Candles," and "All I Do Is Bleed," he has established his personal signature with a gravelly, heart-on-the-sleeve voice box and carefully considered lyrics. Critics are sitting up.
"I tell stories, so lyrics and music come hand in hand. It usually starts with a musical riff and then I match that riff with some kind of striking lyric. So I have a musical riff and a lyrical riff. Then, as a story, I let those two fly together and piece the story together." For example, his last EP release came with a doozie of a title - "All I Do Is Bleed". When asked about the meaning, Ames smiles, "Passions can overwhelm you."
All I Do Is Bleed crossed an artistic boundary for Ames. During the EP project, Ames visited Buenos Aires and brought back mucho Latin inspiration. You can hear it in the tracks, acoustic guitar work and percussion, just like the streets of San Telmo in Buenos Aires. From R&B Downtempo, to American Top 40, to Classical Crossover, to Latin Folk/Pop, the EP confirmed his propensity to travel through music with his stories and emotions. And he shares the stage with his two vocalists, mother and daughter, Chana and Mikaela Matthews, and add an Argentinian guitarist, Paulo Augustin Rzeszut.
Much like in Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen's writing, Patrick's lyrics reveal at times a wry black humor and matter-of-fact delivery. Lines like "While you were making babies I sat on the sofa all by myself. While you were making babies I decided to go down and visit Hell." illustrate this knack perfectly.
Remember wine country? Ames lives in a Napa vineyard where he writes, records, and plays for the grapes at practice time.
"Lots of people love wine and the world of wine (tasting, collecting, etc) but few people get to live in the vineyard. I live in one, and it is hauntingly beautiful. It's not like a cornfield...the vineyards are pampered and coaxed to produce, and the way they are watered, pruned, and picked is special. The land can be remotely wild, filled with animals and critters, and it can be very rural living there. The music that I write, and play, is not so much Americana as it is what I call Wine Country music: it's a mix of heady folk, basic rock, classic Motown, and choral music with an artistic and intellectual bent. Best heard with a glass of wine."
So far, Ames has stuck to DIY production approaches, experimenting with studio live-ness and recording. It's unusual in folk/acoustic music for such experimentation but his latest 6-track release, Liveness (April, 2020), showcases his banshee wail and devoted disposition.
Ames is married to Elizabeth Ames, a woman's rights advocate, with one son. He performs at small venues around the SF Bay Area and Napa preferring intimate settings with the audience.
Source Independent Music Promotions
June 17, 2021 9:52pm ET by Independent Music Promotions