Good songwriting is good songwriting. The style, the genre, the kind of hat the writer wears? These things have nothing to do with the song. When an artist performs with just their voice and their instrument, and it works? Well, that's a pretty damned good song. As the soul of Thanatos since their debut in 1993, Patrick Ogle knows a damned good song. For COVERED COUNTRY, he selected nine classic country tunes to deliver with just a mic-ed up parlor guitar and his bare-bones baritone vocals. This is "country" music performed by an artist often described as "goth." You'd be hard-pressed to tell though, because these stark untreated renditions capture the passion of these songs defying genre classifications.
Created in a couple of sessions with no overdubs, the album is the recorded equivalent of sitting in an artist’s living room listening to him play a few tunes for you. These are songs Ogle often strums while sitting on his couch, feet propped up, thumbing through papers with chords and lyrics piled harum scarum on the table in front of him. Even though it's an album of covers, it comes across as an intensely personal record.
COVERED COUNTRY’s single and video lead track, “Seminole Wind,” is from John Anderson’s 1992 album of the same name. It tells the tale of the ongoing destruction of Florida’s natural environment. As a native of Apopka, FL, Anderson has seen first-hand the devastation in his home state. He is also a consummate professional musician. A while back he had a serious health scare. He literally died on the operating table during the recording of his 2020 LP, YEARS. After he recovered from near-death, he told his producer, “Let's get these vocals down because I might not wake up."
"Pancho & Lefty," written by one of America's greatest songwriters of any era, Townes Van Zant, was made famous in 1983 by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson and later covered by damn near everyone with a guitar. There are likely some listeners out there, focused on a different genre, who have never heard it; it’s truly worth listening to all of its iterations. From Emmylou Harris to Hoyt Axton, artists have interpreted this track in vastly different ways; one version might be elegant, like Harris’, while another is almost joyful. Ogle’s rendition returns to the acoustic style Van Zant employed but with a more "strumming style" on the guitar and with a matter-of-fact storytelling delivery.
"I could have finger picked and done it like Van Zant," says Ogle, "or I could have gone for the 80s Willie Nelson more polished style. I stuck with chords instead of picking, and I confess I wanted this to feel like a campfire story.”
“Highwayman" was written by Jimmy Webb for the "country supergroup" The Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson). Webb has numerous hits; the most well known is, perhaps, the 5th Dimension's "Up, Up and Away.” He also wrote "Wichita Lineman,” "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," and "MacArthur Park." Interestingly this track was recorded by Ogle on the first take, the only one in this collection with that distinction.
Ogle says, "I was just feeling this song that day. The funny thing is for weeks I had been riding around on my bike singing this to myself, and I consistently screwed up the words. Somehow I managed to get it right the first time when recording."
Ogle's versions are homages, not necessarily to the most well-known recordings but to the songwriters themselves. Sometimes those writers are lauded and household names. Other lesser-known writers had their original songs become world-famous when other artists recorded & performed them (Guy Clark, Webb and Van Zant fit this description.)
Over the years, Ogle's own compositions have trod similar ground as many of these recordings -- telling stories of outsiders, veering vaguely into the mystical. "Some of these songwriters were influential to me,” Ogle comments, “while others were more of an encouragement as I became aware of them after I'd already been writing for years. All of them showed me what a songwriter can accomplish if they work at it. Their songs are universal."
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supported by 14 fans who also own “Covered Country”
This album will grow on you. Listen in headphones or earbuds. It will blow your mind. Steve has so many amazing textures and dimensions on this release. It's hard to pick a favorite track. Probably in his top 5, if there is such a thing. 2020Guitarman