In the tiny hamlet of Teepee Creek, Alberta,
a community hall lies at the edge of town. A hand-hewn log structure built by the Scandinavian settlers of northern Alberta’s past, it’s been renovated time and again throughout the years by ranchers and oil workers. Tonight, its white-washed walls host the 2011 Ladies Diamond Dinner, a fundraiser for the local rodeo queen program. The hall is at full capacity with women conversing, eating, drinking, and silently bidding on a diamond pendant donated by a local jeweler. A blonde, bedazzled belly-dancer pirouettes and gyrates throughout the delighted crowd, each and all riveted by the exotic scene that has graced their rural farming community. Meanwhile, the next act – a local country singer and songwriter named Matt Patershuk – sits at the side of the room, the only man in the building. This will be his first gig.
Five years later, Patershuk releases his second album, I WAS SO FOND OF YOU, a powerful collection of weather-worn country originals. Masterfully produced by Juno award-winner Steve Dawson, the album is a rarity among the modern landscape of country and Americana - something deeply and honestly human from a man out of place and time.
Recorded at Steve Dawson’s Henhouse Studio in Nashville, the album was produced almost entirely on the spot, with no isolation. “We just sat in a room, played, and hit record,” says Patershuk. “I think that live feel comes though the speakers in the end.” The raw production of the album compliments the honesty of Patershuk’s songwriting. The gorgeously unshakable baritone grit of this master storyteller’s voice gives a real presence to these songs in the way that film grain lends a realism to a photograph or film. Patershuk’s vocals are complimented by those of American folk singer and songwriter Ana Egge. The only overdub on the whole album, Egge’s etherial vocals help drive home the humanity carried in Patershuk’s groundedly transcendent songs.
Growing up in Edmonton and other prairie towns across Canada, Patershuk was surrounded by the many facets of western Canadian prairie life, but never felt like he quite fit in. “Each place where I’ve lived has worked its way into who I am,” he says. “I think that kind of perspective, where there is knowledge, but not familiarity, is gold for songwriting.”
At the heart of the songs on I Was So Fond of You is the tragic loss of Patershuk’s sister, Clare, to a drunk driver in 2013, as “Harviestown” and the title track find him recalling and reflecting on her life and death. Patershuk is bound to time, fully human, fully honest, recognizing that the meaning of life only begins to emerge in hindsight. As such, many of the tracks on the album deal with tragedy - trying to make sense of it, contending with its repercussions and the questions that emerge. “Mean Coyotes” tells the story of an old horse who meets a tough end, while conveying the sense of powerlessness felt when tragedy strikes outside of our control. “Little Guitar” follows a man who buys a guitar after WWII and deals with the loss of his brother, considering how things that are rugged, beaten up, and well traveled, can, like us, be sources of beauty and solace in the face of a cruel world.
“I took that first gig in Teepee Creek very seriously,” says Patershuk. “At that point I had no idea if I had any real ability at all when it came to songwriting and singing, but I was going to give it a damn good shot.” And a damn good shot it was, because with I WAS SO FOND OF YOU, Matt Patershuk has revealed himself to be a true diamond in the rough, rugged landscape of modern Americana music: real matter, true grit, compressed under the pressures of human experience over time.