Review: Patrick Coman’s ripe journey on ‘Tree of Life’

Patrick Coman

There’s an uncommon sequencing to the songs on Patrick Coman’s album “Tree of Life.” Usually, the tune that doesn’t seem to fit goes last, but the weird one here is first.

The dreamy opener “Heartbeat” is stark and subtle, with Coman speaking, rather than singing, over percussive beats, reminiscent of the folk-bluesman M. Ward or the spooky Mark Sandman of Morphine. Suddenly, there’s a short, vintage rock and roller, “Don’t Reach,” and Coman’s vocal tone is nasally and boisterous, and you think of that old homage to Boston, “Dirty Water.” That’s followed by a cool, upbeat, radio-friendly blues, “Trouble.”

By the time the sixth song comes around, the title track, “Tree of Life,” a listener is rapt, immersed in sonic imagery, attentive to the poetry, delivered with perfectly timed poignancy and punchlines.

The first half of the record sets up the second, which covers a range of emotions: empathy, joy, introspection, wonderment, confusion and vulnerability. And it doesn’t feel subtle anymore.

Coman lived for years in Boston, working as a musician and radio host before moving to Charlottesville, Virginia. But he’s originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and was influenced musically by Woody Guthrie

Citing inspiration from the birth of his first child, Coman wrote all but one of the songs on “Tree of Life.” The lone cover is “Magic Mirror,” written by fellow Tulsan Leon Russell, a wanderlust-of-life tune that Guthrie would have appreciated.

Coman had plenty of help on this breakout album. It was produced by drummer Marco Giovino and lead guitarist Peter Parcek, who must have had fun experimenting with the arrangements that range from indie folk to rockabilly, and from blues and NOLA jazz to the dreamy stories. It was recorded at Dagotown Recorders in rural Massachusetts with a litany of talented contributing musicians.

It feels like Coman has hopped aboard a freight train car with friends, seeking to explore an Americana landscape. “Tree of Life” is a captivating ride.

  • Patrick Coman
    ‘Tree of Life’
    Release: Feb. 23, 2018
    Label: For the Sake
    Standout tracks: ‘Trouble,’ ‘Magic Mirror’

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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