PC, otherwise known in the Valley of California as Patrick Coleman, is still a young guy by my standards, but he's been around. Around in this case is mainly the Valley (home base is Modesto). He describes his musical background in the interview below, but let's say he's been everywhere musically. But with Jaded Starlings In a Gilded Cage he and his band come home to their roots in the Valley, which to anyone familiar with names such as Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Chris Hillman, and Lefty Frizzell (who moved to Bakersfield in the 70s to escape Nashville) is familiar territory as one of the seminal regions in the progression of true country music (with apologies to Blake Shelton).
The Valley is somewhat isolated, and such regions often form distinctive sounds. Patrick Coleman has been exposed to all forms of music, but the Valley sound can be unique, such as what Buck Owens created. So too the sounds of Patrick's new band, the Angels of Death, and the new CD.
Dwight Yoakum is not from the Valley, although as a disciple of Buck Owens you wouldn't know it (who is actually from California?). In a recent interview (Drew Millard, Noisy, http://bit.ly/YvmURu), Dwight talks about the same type of music that informs PC & the Angels of Death:
I had been a fan of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, but I also had been a fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival, which was that kind of Bay Area country-rock. “Swamp Rock,” as it’s referred to. And Beck and I even chased that a bit, in terms of the groove of “A Heart Like Mine.” I told him, I said, “Everybody always does kind of the Swamp groove variation of what John Fogerty did, but nobody ever really attacked the country parts of “Bad Moon Rising.” I said, “That’s what that song, to me, needs.” And so he had his assistant engineer, as I said, play drums on it, and we end up with this kind of great, Stones-colliding-with-Johnny-Cash staccato bounce.
This is the kind of groove this reviewer hears and welcomes in this new release. The CD opens with a jaunty "How Do You Get the Thing to Come Outside" which reminds one, especially in the chorus, of early Gram Parsons' "Older Guys." It's a clue of what's to follow, a melding of garage and punk influences (some from an age that precedes Patrick, who wrote two thirds of the songs) with traditional country, with a voice similar to Gram's in that it can handle the sad songs too, in a way good country (or cosmic) music should, not overly mawkish.
For example, the next song, "There's Nothing to Say" not only is worthy of being on the Burrito Brothers masterpiece, Gilded Palace of Sin, it has a similar production value. The vocals are high lonesome cosmic, the groove is as Yoakum describes, and the pedal steel, by Bobby Black (Commander Cody, Asleep at the Wheel), is flawless. Third up is "Soul Searchin," pure mid-sixties garage pop, worthy of the Nuggets box set that houses garage songs of that era. Garage was also a huge influence on Gram Parsons, whom Coleman often comes back to as an influence; it seeps into Gram's International Submarine Band, the seminal cosmic country band and album. But lines such as "When hope seems gone you find the strength to carry on" seem to take it lyrically back home to country.
"It's Nothing to Do With You" provides a bouncy Poco-ish feel to Patrick's sweet voice in a tune reminiscent of the Byrds version of "You Ain't Going Nowhere." "Codeine" displays a true cosmic feel that perhaps owes more to the Notorious Byrds than Sweetheart. Track 6 is a respectful rendition of Hillman's "Time Between," with great guitar and pedal steel which improves on the Byrds' version and also brings it with a cowpunk attitude, with Patrick's voice floating over the hard driving beat.
The original "Little Girl, I'll Decide" is strictly Rolling Stones '66 and would have been a hit at that. "Mama, Keep It Outside" hints at drugs as a substitute for mama and fits squarely in the "Mama tried-and-true" tradition, but here seems to be squarely about Gram Parsons. (I won't dwell on the, weirdness?, of two tracks dealing with the "Outside"--existentially?--one asking how do you get "the thing" to come outside and the other how to keep it outside; LOL, I think I just did, dwell on it that is;).
Nothing much needs to be said about "Train Leaves Here This Morning," one of two Gene Clark songs on the album, except that it's one of my favorite versions now. "Sometimes You're High" is a jaunty honky tonk shuffle worthy of the Valley; Gram would have loved it, and we can all identify with the line, "Sometimes you hope you know when it's time to go." Bobby Black excels here as throughout.
Track 6, "In the Plan" is a wonder. I didn't even recognize it at first as being from Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark, which contains an original more bluegrass version. Here it becomes pure cosmic (see Patrick's definition below); beginning and ending with an homage to the Byrds (opening: "Mr. Tamborine Man", closing: "Bells of Rhymney"), this is a whole new take on the quintessential oh-so-existential Gene Clark song (with the pleading, tell me why, reminiscent of another early cosmic country band, the Beau Brummels). "I Wonder If You're Going to Be Home" just kills to complete the album.
Patrick points toward "the deterioration theme" when discussing the album. "The motif in the art and title are of the haunted South, trapped in family and ritual," he explains. "The painting is of an ancestor with a locket of daddy, which speaks of power and deterioration." I do get that, but I want to make sure readers don't interpret this as "depressing." (As a student of Faulkner I get this a lot: "How can you read that, it's so depressing!") Yes, it can be Faulknerian, but I have to say, I haven't heard a more upbeat, listenable album in years. It displays the freshness of Parsons' Sub Band's Safe At Home with the maturity of his final albums. Jaded Starlings In a Gilded Cage refreshingly presents an autopsy of the rock and country roots of Americana while giving hope that the gilded cage can again be opened and the cosmic in country can still be captured--and then released.
WJ: Patrick, could you briefly describe your musical background?
PC: I’ve been in every kind of band. Rock, blues, art rock, and Brit-rock. As a kid, I loved the Beatles, Kinks, and Stones, a lot of hard rock stuff like Kiss and Aerosmith, then Gun Club, Bowie, Stooges. My Grandfather was the only one listening to old country music, which I didn’t like so much at the time, but it came round to haunt me later after I got into the Byrds and then the Burrito Brothers.
WJ: In your new album "Jaded Starlings In A Gilded Cage" my ear detects many influences, from garage to country. Am I on track and is this an indication of where you see your music heading?
PC: Oh yeah! You’re hearing early Rolling Stones and Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram Parsons! Those are my favorite and come across the strongest, I think. And Gene Clark. Son Volt.
WJ: So you've played with other bands; is this band relatively new? Are you playing out and where? The other band members have similar musical interests?
PC: Not really. We got together about six years ago and recorded a project. Then went our own ways for a while and realized we were onto something. So we played about and recorded Jaded Starlings. We’ll be playing around the valley, the big Chocolate Festival this summer, Joshua Tree Festival maybe, Folk Festival in San Francisco is a possibility. The guys? Similar interests. Bad Brad plays exactly like Clarence White. And Bobby, Lord!, comes from Commander Cody!
WJ: You live in the Valley of California. What do you like and not like about that region of California?
PC: The weather! It’s awesome, and the beaches. I’ve done a little surfing. The bad? Well the economy is really suffering out here. Taxes are high and people are out of work. Hard times for many.
WJ: How would you define the musical focus of the Valley today? Is it in line with the rich country heritage that came from that region?
PC: It’s funny. It really is a mixed bag out here. I imagine it like this. The country was first settled in the east and everyone slowly moved westward bringing their own influences with them, and came out here to settle. Many from dustbowl days brought folk music. Rock and roll in Los Angeles blossomed. Buck Owens was the first sounding board of this mixture. So yeah, country is alive and well here, but doesn’t really jive with Nashville’s pop.
WJ: How did you come to have Bobby Black, who played with Asleep at the Wheel and Commander Cody among others, play on the album?
PC: My buddy Rob in the band (Rotten Robbie) saw Commander Cody play at a casino and got to talking with him years ago. He told me I should call him up. So I did! Nicest guy you’ll ever meet. Talking with Bobby, I found out that he lived nearby, so I invited him to record. Man, he is still at the top of his game!
WJ: I understand you've played with Sneaky Pete? What kind of guy was he?
PC: Super nice, soft spoken. Fun to work with. I was on a project with him for Rob years ago. I even got to play his pedal steel! Try anyway. The only one he’s ever had and used on everything. It seems to glow! Sneaky told us lots of stories and how Gram was…frustrating. He was stoned all the time. Lol.
WJ: Like many, I believe you claim Gram Parsons, among others, as an influence. Is this a recent thing, are you finding your way back to him, how does that work with you?
PC: I found Gram through the Byrd’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo album and the Burrito Brothers. His style along with the others’ really grabbed me. It’s definitely stayed with me.
WJ: What do you think was the highpoint of Gram's brief but sterling career? I think we all know what the low points were. Do you think he belongs in the Country Music Hall of Fame? Why? Do you think there's a chance of his induction?
PC: I think he got higher and higher, on many levels, lol! Better songwriting up to the end. He definitely belongs in the Hall Of Fame. Every country musician knows who he is, many claim him as an influence, so many cover his songs… I think it’s just a matter of time. There’s a list of signatures out there for people to get on and sign for him, I know [Editor's note: http://gramparsonspetition.com].
WJ: Blake Shelton caused a stir recently by basically berating anyone that doesn't appreciate today's pop country music, I think it's fair to call it, coming out of Nashville, and who appreciates traditional country. What do you think of his comments?
PC: Disappointing. Well, he’s ruined his reputation now for good, and doubtless, will recover. I actually saw the polls on it the other night. Most people in the world prefer traditional country, if they had to choose. It’s the backbone of the pop stuff anyway, which I don’t care for. Everyone covers those songs, even rock artists. It’s just too richly sewn into the American fabric.
WJ: Is there a label you would use to describe the many folks who not only appreciate traditional country music but who, like Gram did, are trying to keep the good while taking it to a new level?
PC: Cosmic, is what Gram called it, which he meant a mixed bag. I’ve heard it called stoner country, drop-out, I don’t know. It is still a wild frontier, unmined. The rockabilly music was a hint long ago, rhythm and blues… Labels are hard to maintain because of constant change. I guess Cosmic Country still can apply.
WJ: I believe there are two songs from Gene Clark on the album. How has his songwriting influenced you?
PC- Ah… Gene Clark was another brilliant songwriter! Better than Dylan. Everyone knows of his Byrds career, but his solo work just blossomed. Cosmic as well. He knew well how to mix rock, country, and folk music. I hope I’m like that. One song of his I covered on the album, In The Plan, was actually a bluegrass song. I wanted to give it a 60s garage/Byrds twist as homage to him.
WJ: Where would you like to play, what venues for example? Do you have any plans to back up the album with a tour this year?
PC- Yes I do. Mostly California. I want to play Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace, The Ryman, a lot of festivals, and any honky tonk I can get us into!
WJ: I understand you're a teacher, fifth grade correct? What do you like most about teaching? Is there anything about it that transfers to music and/or working with a band?
PC: Yeah. The kids are alright. It’s what I trained to do to make a living. The kids, it’s all about rap to them. And they love to tease me about my long hair, but they’re all good kids. The only thing that transfers over is having patience! Lol.
WJ: Where can folks get a copy of Jaded Starlings In A Gilded Cage? And best of luck to you.
PC: We will soon be on Amazon and iTunes, but for now you can get a copy from our band site http://pcandtheangelsofdeath.weebly.com and http://pcandtheangelsofdeath.bandcamp.com. Just Google us, you’ll find us. And thank you very much, Will. It was a pleasure.