The ingredients are standard enough - acoustic guitars, bass, harmonica, a bit of piano here, a dash of Hammond organ there, even some washboard for rhythmic effect - yet somehow, even without any prior knowledge, I'd know at first listen that Patrick McKernan calls England home. If pressed I'd be hard put to say exactly why; there's just something here (and no, it has nothing to do with an accent, 'cause there's very little discernable in Patrick's singing) that just feels English.
Patrick wrote all the songs on this, his third outing. While there are moments here that don't quite work - "Trail Of Tears" is lyrically clumsy despite its noble sentiment, and the arrangement on "Flesh And Bone" is just a little too sparse, with Patrick's vocals not quite strong enough to carry things - on the whole it's a very fine collection that combines folk, a bit of rock, and blues into a package with a great deal of appeal.
Truth be told the blues content is quite light here; purists looking for more of the same-old-same-old will be disappointed. But they'd be missing out on some fine songwriting and tastefully understated musicianship. There are songs here ("Roll Down The River," "In A Different Time," "Leaving Blues," and the title track) that seem as familiar as old friends by the second listen, thanks to Patrick's way with melody and his uncanny knack for marrying it to irresistibly catchy hooks.
This, I admit, is my first encounter with Patrick's music, so I can only guess at his influences; I'd probably put Mark Knopfler near the top of the list, though. There are hints of Mr. Knopfler's gruff growl here and there in Patrick's vocals, and he seems to share Mark's reverence for American roots music as filtered, again, through the British experience.
Patrick's fretwork is fine if unexceptional. For the most part sticking to acoustic guitars (he goes electric on "Rhythm And Rhyme"), he nonetheless finds a multitude of textures to work with, and a rich palette with which to add instrumental colour to his carefully crafted compositions. Both production and packaging are first rate. Most readers won't recognize many of the supporting cast, but special mention goes to Al Clarke for his just-right harmonica work.
"Been Here And Gone" is a very good disc. It's not fashionable, and I can't see Patrick setting the charts ablaze. But anyone who enjoys good songs with memorable melodies, crafted with care and performed with a great deal of heart, will find much to like here.
I'll stop short of an unqualified recommendation simply because this review will appear in a primarily blues-oriented publication, and I know people who simply wouldn't get it. But me, I like it very much indeed.
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