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How trad music aficionado Elizabeth Szekeres fell for Patrick Watson

It was last December. In my local record store, I was selecting new music to give to the young men in my family.

“I don’t have it in stock,” said the middle-aged, long-haired record shop owner, “but you absolutely have to get this album.”

The album was Wave, by Patrick Watson, just released two months earlier. I bought it from iTunes the minute I got home.

Four months later, I’m still listening.

This album, in its entirety, has been with me on insomniac nights, on jet planes to Quito, Galápagos, and the Sea of Cortez, and it continues to inhabit and possess me as we spend our days in collective isolation with the threat of a global pandemic about to engulf us.

Patrick Watson, who hails from Montréal, must have foreseen the pandemic, or else why would he have written lyrics like these? 

From “Dream for Dreaming”:

This dream I’m dreaming

Won’t you wake me up tonight

‘Cause this life I’m living

Doesn’t really feel like mine

This strange dream I’m dreaming

If it ain’t wrong, it don’t feel right…

 

From “The Wave:”

As a wave came and washed on by

I watched as change came

To change me before it said goodbye

It broke my body

As it crashed into my sleeping mind

I tossed, I turned as I learned to let it wash on by

Just got to take your time

I’ll see you on the other side…

 

And, from “Here Comes The River:”

Here comes the river 

Coming on strong

But you can’t keep your head above these troubled waters

Here comes the river 

Over the flames

Sometimes you got to burn to keep the storm away

Sometimes…

These words are dealing with a world that is beyond our control, waves which crash over us regardless of our own particular life trajectory, feelings or desires. And yet, there is hope. It’s the same hope we felt when we heard, for the hundredth time, Stan Rogers’ “Mary Ellen Carter.”  It’s the feeling that when all is lost, you haven’t really lost it at all; that you do, in fact, have the wherewithal inside you to make it through to the other side. You accept the beauty in the world, along with the pain.

Patrick Watson’s gorgeous evocative lyrics are cocooned inside some of the most beautiful melodies I have heard in years. Officially, this is categorized as indie pop – if it is even possible to slot great music into such a sterile pigeonhole. But I rather think this is roots music of the best kind. This is music that transcends categorization, music that draws from the myriad of influences a young man growing up in Montréal might drink in.  

As well as the hope and determination of Stan Rogers, I heard in this recording the influences of Phillip Glass, Nick Drake, Rufus Wainwright and Leonard Cohen. They are influences from the classical world, the world of poetry and literature, traditional folk music, and the music of the world itself.  The melodies are often cinematic, allowing you to create a whole universe in your mind as you listen. Sometimes the lyrics quite disappear. And then, you disappear yourself, falling into this music with all your heart and soul.

But, maybe it is best when listening to music like this to just let it all wash over you, to let the wave happen to you and bring you out the other side into a world of blue skies and hope for a better world.

Patrick Watson has lots of concerts booked for after the pandemic emergency is over. In the meantime, you can download Wave and other recordings from iTunes. 

Check out the band’s website:   http://patrickwatson.net

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