From The Desk Of John Wesley Harding: Patto’s “Hold Your Fire” (& Other Joys)

The 25-year career of singer/songwriter John Wesley Harding has skyrocketed of late with the publication of no fewer than three critically acclaimed novels under his birth name, Wesley Stace. Equally amazing, the artist named for Bob Dylan’s misspelling of Texas gunfighter John Wesley Harden has just released the finest album of a career that’s seen him record at least 18 longplayers for labels ranging from high-profile majors to imprints so small the back catalog was stored in somebody’s garage between the cat box and the washing machine. Produced by old pal Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows) and fleshed out by no less than R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and the Decemberists, The Sound Of His Own Voice (Yep Roc) is a full-bore stunner with Wes (nobody calls him John) weaving his usual lyrical magic through knockout arrangements of extraordinary songs that revive the ghosts of the Kinks, David Lynch soundtrack guru Angelo Badalamenti and wall-of-sound maestro Phil Spector. For yet another career-topping milestone (gasp), JWH will be guest editing all week for (yes it’s true) the second time. Read our brand new Q&A with him.

Hardy: Patto‘s second album, Hold Your Fire, is a masterpiece, featuring the great Ollie Halsall on lead guitar and vibes. The lyrics are great, Mike Patto’s singing is fantastic, and simply, they sound like a bunch of heavy dudes. I found this and the first album on lovely clean vinyl recently. There are two Hold Your Fire covers, an atypical Roger Dean for the U.K., with folding pieces, which means the album can look different depending on your mood, and an equally great American cover.

I’ve listened to the first two Patto albums as much as anything this year. The standout track on Hold Your Fire is the first song, the title track. The song also features one of the great fade-out jams, because even though the band are basically done with the song, Ollie just doesn’t want to stop yet. It’s everything that’s great about a live studio recording. There is no possibility that anything was overdubbed.

The lyrics are also great:
“You could see me there at every happening with my album by the Byrds
I was shown how to question the great ‘I Ching’ but I could dig some of the words
I’ve smoked a ton of marijuana, I sat crossed legged till my legs went numb
I made peace signs at the farmers when they called me a no good bum
I’ve read pornographic literature and I’ve studied the underground press
I had given my all to Krishna who I was told would not take less
I spent three weeks making necklaces from oriental beads
They were stolen by my guru while I was high on glory seeds”

Other things to look into, if you like to look into things, include Halsall’s wonderful “Traveling Show,” on his record Caves (which is I think basically a bunch of demos)—a little masterpiece recently and beautifully covered by Eleanor Friedberger at a Cabinet Of Wonders in NYC.

Patto’s post-Patto band, Boxer, had one of the least great album covers of all time, which I include below, of course, because it would be irresponsible not to. But don’t let this put you off: The Patto albums are amazing.

Photos after the jump.