Never Mind The Grammy's, Here's Pat McLaughlin

Each year the Grammy's evoke the usual wide range of responses from disgust to indifference to praise.  Whatever.  It's the music industry's big wet kiss to itself and I expect a stew of the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of who is nominated, who wins, and what gets televised. That's just how it is. So, in the wake of the Grammy hoopala, here's an appreciation of Pat McLaughlin, one of my very favorite performers, an extremely talented songwriter, singer, and rhythm guitarist.  The kind of guy who in a better world would win a Grammy(s).  The kind of guy who evokes a very narrow range of responses from "wow" to "unbelievable".  When people deride the music coming out of Nashville, they are definitely not thinking of Iowa born Pat McLaughlin, long based in Nashville.

     Four Corners is a single point in America where the states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet. Pat McLaughlin’s music is similarly a convergence point, where R&B, country, pop, and rock ‘n’ roll conjoin.

- Michael Ross, No Depression Magazine, issue 48, Nov-Dec 2003

He forgot to include soul, not to nitpick, but that would have been five corners. But anyway...

About ten years ago, a friend, Bill FitzGerald, owner of FitzGerald's, the finest roots music venue in the Chicago  area, strongly suggested to a few friends that we not miss the upcoming show by Pat McLaughlin, then unknown to any of us.  It turned out to be a magical night, the kind that leaves you shaking your head in disbelief and smiling broadly.  It was an incredible night in several ways, starting with Pat's songwriting and vocals, both as good as you could possibly hope to hear.  After the show, we assumed that the "band" had been playing together for years.  No, it was a pick up band playing live together for the first time, aside from one brief rehearsal.  Pat has long been based in Nashville, this group was put together specifically for the show we saw.  Pat sang and played rhythm guitar.  On drums was Angie Varias, who long ago was the drummer in the Famous Potatoes, a local band that recorded with and served as John Prine's backing band back in the day.  Pat Brennan played the B3 and other keyboards. Clem Hayes played bass.  John Rice played guitar.  Local Chicago area veteran ace musicians. Amazing what old pro's can do with exceptional material.  It all starts with the songs, right?

Years later, having seen the same "band" three or four times (meaning their third or fourth ever performances as a unit), Bill said Pat was bringing his Nashville band to FitzGerald's.  We were curious to hear the same songs done by the Nashville guys, unsure what to expect.  They blew our domes too!  Amazing what old pro's can do with exceptional material.  We tried describing the difference between how the pick up band handled the songs and what the Nashville group did, and the best comment I heard was that hearing both bands was like the difference between "sauteed and seared".  Made sense. Nashville band/seared, Chicago group/sauteed. Both compelling. Pat's Nashville band was Chad Cromwell on drums, Kenny Greenberg on guitar, and Michael Rhodes on bass.  Chad is a long time touring drummer for Neil Young and Mark Knopfler.  Kenny Greenburg is as good a guitar player as you'll ever find in Nashville  or anywhere else, and Michael Rhodes has played with a who's who of musicians, for good reason.  Google each of them.    

(Right):  L-R: Kenny Greenburg, Michael Rhodes, Pat McLaughlin

Pat doesn't perform often.  His website shows about one performance a month, most months, usually at Douglas Corner in Nashville.  I am inferring by the lack of shows that he pays his rent by writing, along with session work for others. Among his co-writers is John Prine. Here's a sampling of people who have recorded Pat's songs: John Prine, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Subdudes, Tanya Tucker, Tricia Yearwood, Nancy Griffith, Alan Jackson, Lee Ann Womack, Al Kooper, Tim O'Brien.  And Pat is a well regarded session guitarist, having recorded with Johnny Cash, Roseanne Cash, John Prine, John Doe, "Cowboy" Jack Clement, Al Kooper, and many others.

Advance to 00:45 where the band starts playing

Pat has also participated in several interesting side projects.  During the 90's he formed Tiny Town with Subdudes Tommy Malone and Johnny Ray Allen, and John Hiatt's longtime drummer, Kenny Blevins. They put out one record, a self titled effort well worth seeking out.

More recently, Pat has been playing with the World Famous Headliners, which put out what was for me easily one of the most enjoyable and infectious discs I heard last year.  Side note:  it's also the only disc ever released that opens with one of the band members prodding his band mates by saying, "c'mon, don't be pussies". They've received a little attention here on ND and deserve more.  In addition to Pat, they are Al Anderson (NRBQ), Shawn Camp, Michael Rhodes and Greg Morrow, the latter two being part of Pat's Nashville group.

So, what's a terrific pro's pro of a songwriter, a rhythm guitarist's rhythm guitarist, an amazing singer and performer, a guy who attracts and plays with world class musicians who can sell his songs to more famous names doing so far under the popular radar?  Actually, the better question is what is he doing flying so low under our radar here on No Depression, where you'd expect him to be?

Check out a few of Pat's more recent records, such as the stellar "Next Five Miles", "Horsefly", and his live record, "Live in '09" and tell me if you can figure it out.

Please sample Pat's music and buy his records at his website: 

Views: 813

Comment by Michael D Hansen on February 19, 2013 at 5:29pm

Nice piece Jack ..... I love Pat McLaughlin .... such a soulful singer and by all reports a great guy. Haven't managed to catch him live on any of my visits to the US, and have had difficulties trying to get some of his recordings. So I've had to rely mostly on Youtube clips and the like. Love the World Famous Headliners too !!!

This is one of my favourites from Pat and his Nashville crew .... so deep in the groove !!

Comment by Jack on February 19, 2013 at 5:54pm

Thanks, Michael.  As you live in Australia, am very curious to hear how you came to hear about Pat, given his low profile outside of Nashville, much less overseas.  When you mention that he's "such a soulful singer" I think of his live cover of the Chi-Lites "Oh Girl" in particular, he makes it sound as if he'd written it.  There's not much video to be found on line, but his live DVD and various CD's are available through his website.  I'd guess that if you emailed him asking how you can have CD's shipped to Australia, they'd work something out for you.  I've ordered from his site a few times.  Hope that helps you fill in a few gaps.

Comment by W E B on November 20, 2013 at 6:07am

Well done Jack, I have read the name Pat McLaughlin on more than one liner note and shame on me for not having looked him up in the past. Your article and the associated clips have opened my eyes and I thank you!  The company he has kept and continues to keep are top notch and I am  sure that they count themselves lucky to run with him.

I'd write more but, after shedding my spelunking gear from the cave that I have apparently been living in,  I'm on way to Pat's website to see what I must add to my music library.

Thanks again Jack! 

Comment by Jack on November 20, 2013 at 7:11am

WEB, glad you enjoyed.  Was just hoping to repay the favor my friend did for me years back in urging me to catch Pat's live show that night, which I've done many times since.  Next Five Miles would be a very good starting point if you decide to buy anything.  From a late 80's song called Is That My Heart Breakin' comes a classic line, "is that my heart breakin', or did somebody drop a bowling ball?" Not sure that record is still available but some of his older ones are from his website, along with the more recent.

Comment by W E B on November 21, 2013 at 4:45am


Since I don't do the credit card on the internet thing,  I have leaned on a friend of mine to order " Next Five Miles"  for me and I should have the CD early next week. I will be certain to let you know my feelings on it.

Thanks again for the great lead!  

Comment by Jim Hunter on February 28, 2014 at 9:09am

World Famous Headliners!!   Love Big Al...great article Jack, I missed it the first time around...Pat is terrific...thanks sooooooo much!  I will be visiting the website and buying several...

Comment by Jack on February 28, 2014 at 9:26am

Jim, last spring, my wife and I and another couple were looking to get out of dodge for a long weekend. We decided to drive to Nashville, timing the trip around the weekend Pat was playing his monthly Friday show and the next night with the World Famous Headliners. Great nights of music.

Comment by W E B on February 28, 2014 at 9:41am

Jack... its hard to beat that rush you get when you can turn someone on to solid music.  Rest assured your heads up on Pat McLaughlin fell on listening, and most appreciative ears! 

I am in your debt! 

thanks man! 


Comment by Jack on February 28, 2014 at 9:58am

WEB, you're kind, but the real rush is being bowled over by new music, that feeling doesn't come along often enough, but when it does!

Comment by W E B on February 28, 2014 at 10:06am

Well said my friend, very well said! 

... it's still a buzz when you know that you are on the same page with those that "GET IT".

On that note, I am signing off for the day so I get some running around done before I catch a show tonight in Ann Arbor Michigan at my second favourite venue on the planet,,,, The Ark.

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings are playing tonight and I plan to be front and centre for what is certain to be a GREAT SHOW!  

Be well, 



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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.