California Independent songwriter Patrick Ames releases two new powerful singles
At age 69, Songwriter Patrick Ames Grows Ever More Determined
Acclaimed Musician, Poet and Songwriter Patrick Ames exists very much in his own orbit, always following his gut and ending up in a raw, vulnerable space both lyrically and musically. The human element is paramount to Patrick, trumping the option paralysis of over-production or studio trickery. In fact, his releases often give the feeling that he’s right there, performing from the room you’re in, playfully musing on the absurdities of existence. And that’s a comforting thought. His two new singles, released October 4th, are both deep reflections on life and aging, brimming with Patrick’s signature wit and heart-on-the-sleeve demeanor.
“I’ve been intrigued by the intersection of songs and poems for years: when do you read and when do you sing, and when do you combine the two? My only insight is that it depends on the intent. Take these two new songs. They approach large topic areas, climate change and aging, by pinching the skin in a way only music can do. I’m not after solutions, I’m after engagement. So I threw a 16 bar blues at one, and some pulsing synths with a kit at the other.”
Independent songwriter Patrick Ames released two new powerful singles this week: “Young and Amorous” and “I Was Thinking”. They are as opposite as the two edges of a radio dial. “Young and Amorous” has a dance-floor pulsing beat, soaring vocals, and a universal set of lyrics about growing older. On the other hand, I Was Thinking is an acoustic talk-along on climate change in the likes of Leonard Cohen and Mose Allison. The two singles couldn’t be more different except as classic examples of the ever-determined songwriter, 69 year old Patrick Ames, who revels in exposing hidden places and the compromised pieces of life.
“Young and Amorous” is seemingly a combination of Sade, Al Green, and a lot of Ames. “Let’s pretend we’re young and amorous tonight” is the simple premise and age has everything to do with it. Each 16-beat stanza has a slightly different melody with Mikaela Matthews’ ever colorful backup vocal, Jon Ireson’s expert bass and master programming, and Ames rhythm guitar. It’s a tribute to some of Ames’ more uptempo blues/rock songs, all produced by Jon Ireson: You Make Me Scream, Reawakened 2020, and Dontchawanna. Turn it up, loud
“I Was Thinking” is more than a soft acoustic counter-weight to “Young and Amorous”. It’s the lyrics: serious, contemporary, more poetic at times than singable. The song chastises the slowness of society to admit climate change and climate pollution. And it reiterates the feeling that no one is in control, or succeeding in leading the world to confront our very deadly future. Listen as Ames climbs in and out of his baritone and tenor for emphasis and irony and Jon Ireson’s accompaniment on bass.
Take your pick. Ames has written and released two more jewels of juxtaposition.
Patrick Ames: vocals, guitars, synths
Mikaela Matthews, vocals (Young and Amorous)
Jon Ireson: bass, guitars, programming
Chana Matthews: remote recordings
Written and recorded by Patrick Ames, May-August 2023.
Produced by Jon Ireson
Patrick Ames Bio
In the heart of wine country in California, you may encounter the proper wordsmith and storyteller, Patrick Ames. Patrick is a man who plays to his own inner muse, revealing a complex set of inspirations and incantations from the eclectic songwriter. One can expect more than a dash of the raw, dark, and mournful, along with hopeless romance, artistic conviction, and a fiercely in-the-moment, DIY approach where the recording style is both instrument and live-ness detector.
And what you soon learn is that Patrick Ames is passionate. Writing/literature is a passion. Lyrics and poetry are passions. Melody/guitar/music writing is a passion. Nature and wine country are passions. Spirituality and inner connection, passion. Psychological pursuits, passion. Anything activist or community-related are passions. Knowledge, education, are passions. Ames smiles, “Wine makes you passionate.”
Ames discusses growing up in a household full of music and how that became a part of his musical consciousness:
“My mother sang opera and also in the church choir (I’m a choir brat). My very older brothers listened to 1960s hits and bands, and my father to Pop radio. We were close to Detroit, so it was Motown, Motown, Motown, or Puccini. And for some reason I knew who the songwriters were, like Holland, Dozer, Holland. Then Glen Campbell broke through and I remember adoring him. He had a TV show. He had a guitar and he wrote songs! I still think his Wichita Lineman is extraordinary.”
Ames started writing songs in 1968 when he was 14 years old. He inherited a guitar and dozens of classic albums from his older brothers who went off to college. An avid songwriter and performer during his own college tenure, he went into book publishing after attempting the music circuit in 1976. It would be 25 years before he would play seriously again. “I bought my son a cheap Fender and amp. He didn’t like it. I loved it. I cranked it up and played with abandon. And then it all came back, in spades.”
Much of Ames’s professional life has been in technical book publishing, which for him carries several parallels to what he’s doing now.
“Book publishing is exactly like being a music producer. The end product is a finished work of communication, and the path from early inspiration to finish is a drug. And you keep doing it to get the drug. Writing songs is like writing poems, only with more tools at your disposal: you have melody, rhythm, human voices, syncopation, and on and on. Songs can become these extraordinary 3D poems. And I think a good LP/EP is just like a book, with songs like chapters, and all these themes criss-crossing.”
Now, in his early 60’s, Ames has returned to songwriting armed with decades of word-smithing, book publishing, and decades of practice. Through a series of experimental EP and LP releases, including “Four Faces,” “Like Family,” “Affettuosos,” “Standard Candles,” and “All I Do Is Bleed,” he has established his personal signature with a gravelly, heart-on-the-sleeve voice box and carefully considered lyrics. Critics are sitting up.
“I tell stories, so lyrics and music come hand in hand. It usually starts with a musical riff and then I match that riff with some kind of striking lyric. So I have a musical riff and a lyrical riff. Then, as a story, I let those two fly together and piece the story together.” For example, his last EP release came with a doozie of a title – “All I Do Is Bleed”. When asked about the meaning, Ames smiles, “Passions can overwhelm you.”
All I Do Is Bleed crossed an artistic boundary for Ames. During the EP project, Ames visited Buenos Aires and brought back mucho Latin inspiration. You can hear it in the tracks, acoustic guitar work and percussion, just like the streets of San Telmo in Buenos Aires. From R&B Downtempo, to American Top 40, to Classical Crossover, to Latin Folk/Pop, the EP confirmed his propensity to travel through music with his stories and emotions. And he shares the stage with his two vocalists, mother and daughter, Chana and Mikaela Matthews, and add an Argentinian guitarist, Paulo Augustin Rzeszut.
Much like in Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen’s writing, Patrick’s lyrics reveal at times a wry black humor and matter-of-fact delivery. Lines like “While you were making babies I sat on the sofa all by myself. While you were making babies I decided to go down and visit Hell.” illustrate this knack perfectly.
Remember wine country? Ames lives in a Napa vineyard where he writes, records, and plays for the grapes at practice time.
“Lots of people love wine and the world of wine (tasting, collecting, etc) but few people get to live in the vineyard. I live in one, and it is hauntingly beautiful. It’s not like a cornfield…the vineyards are pampered and coaxed to produce, and the way they are watered, pruned, and picked is special. The land can be remotely wild, filled with animals and critters, and it can be very rural living there. The music that I write, and play, is not so much Americana as it is what I call Wine Country music: it’s a mix of heady folk, basic rock, classic Motown, and choral music with an artistic and intellectual bent. Best heard with a glass of wine.”
So far, Ames has stuck to DIY production approaches, experimenting with studio live-ness and recording. It’s unusual in folk/acoustic music for such experimentation but his 6-track release, Liveness (April, 2020), showcases his banshee wail and devoted disposition.
Ames is married to Elizabeth Ames, a woman’s rights advocate, with one son. He performs at small venues around the SF Bay Area and Napa preferring intimate settings with the audience.