Pat Simmons Jr - This Mountain
Pat Simmons Jr. hails from the big island of Maui and his lifetime growing up and living surrounded by its environs has a profound influence on his first recording. The six song debut This Mountain boasts a number of traditional music influences working well alongside modern strains that will be immediately recognizable to anyone listening. Simmons Jr makes excellent use of longstanding forms, but he reinvents them just enough to leave a distinctive mark quite unlike anyone else performing in this style. He brings the colors and sounds from Hawaiian life to life without ever allowing this to become some sort of sonic travelogue. This is a small collection, but each track is aimed at pleasing an extensive swath of possible listeners. Simmons Jr. has the sort of self-assurance that you can’t teach – each of these performances make it clear that he has ample songwriting and performing skills and his security with this enables him to relax and get the material over with apparently minimal effort.
It begins with a sharp uplift thanks to the song “Up and Out by Five”. There’s a strong sense of self filling Simmons’ songs and this track testifies to the urgency in his heart, an urgency translating nicely into this musical and lyrical invention. There’s a great buoyancy in this performance that never gets carried away with itself and he knows how to imbue it with just the right amount of energy. The much moodier “Rust”, nonetheless, sparkles with fantastic beauty and the melodic strengths of the song are centered primarily on Simmons’ singing. The introduction of slide guitar, along with other occasional musical additions on the release, is one of the key factors in making these otherwise direct and straight ahead songs something much different. The restrained feel of a song like this is a marked contrast with some of the more outwardly hopeful songs dominating the EP. “Mauna Mele” doesn’t take an uptempo approach, but it exudes every bit as much of the same pastoral spirit inhabiting the opener and other songs. The additional instruments take on a deliciously languid air that further fits the performance. “Touch the Ground” is an excellent mix of brief, fiery electric guitar bursts and another impressively written acoustic track. There’s some interesting shifts in the song that give it a different spin than most of this material.
“All the Way” glows with a pale blue light but it has such a tastefully underplayed sway that it gets under your skin within seconds. Simmons puts a good exclamation point on his singing over the course of this release with another knowing and warm vocal. This Mountain has the sort of timeless material that sneaks into your consciousness without knowing it while still providing an impressive entertainment experience for the casual fan. Patrick Simmons Junior has gotten his recording career off to a great start with this release and it bodes well for his future.
9 out of 10 stars