Category: Pat Wictor

Pat Wictor Covers:
Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, Son House, Dave Carter & more!

February 24th, 2010 — 09:43 pm

Success is a fickle and elusive concept in the modern folk world. Being well respected in such a small community of fans may keep you on the road, but it takes an awful lot of coffeehouse sets to pay a mortgage. It’s no secret that even well-recognized names performing in the folk vein are lucky if their new albums sell a few thousand copies. For every one of the tiny handful of acts in each generation – From Dar to Dylan, from Patty Griffin to Nanci Griffith – that manage to break the barrier between small folk radio and mainstream recognition, there are hundreds of excellent acts on the circuit for whom success is measured in smaller increments of rise and fall.

Pat Wictor is an interesting case in point. After leaving a teaching career in 2001 to focus on musicianship full time, his fourth album, Waiting For The Water (2004), reached #4 on the FolkDJ playlist by February of 2005; his subsequent release, Heaven Is So High…And I’m So Far Down (2006), was a critical breakthrough, netting him nationwide playlist slots and plenty of positive press in the folk publications.

Being voted one of three “Most Wanted” artists at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival’s emerging artists showcase that year netted the New York artist a feature spot on the mainstage the following year. Similar accolades from the Kerrville Folk Fest in 2007, plus a nomination for emerging artist of the year at the International Folk Festival, seemed apt confirmation of his well-deserved welcome from the folk community.

But as many artists discover the hard way, keeping the buzz going after the “new” label wears off can be an uphill climb.

[Update, March 2: after further research and discussion, I see that I mistook Pat's move from "new and peaking" to a more settled spot on a more national scale as a loss of status and recognition in the folk community - which was, it turns out, a misrepresentation of Pat's own experience. I'll address this more formally sometime in the next week or three; in the meanwhile, my commentary on his excellent musicianship stands, and Pat's newest album, like the rest of his work, remains highly recommended.]

Like many singer-songwriters of his generation, Pat Wictor’s turn in the spotlight as a rising star has not necessarily been the first step on a larger ladder to fame and fortune. 2008 release The Sunset Waltz was a solid album, but it’s noticeably absent from Wictor’s website bio, perhaps suggesting that it did not receive the same critical reception as his two previous works. And noticeably, Pat’s presence on festival mainstages has waned significantly since 2007. Last year, his only even semi-official appearance In 2008, for example, my only experience of his performance at Falcon Ridge was a tiny unmiked vendor-sponsored set in the aisle of the vendor area, attended by a small crowd of perhaps twenty wandering souls and shoppers, and me. A far cry from the mainstages, indeed.

I’ll admit, catching Pat Wictor’s casual off-stage performance at Falcon Ridge ’08 was my first chance to hear him play live; my volunteer work at Falcon Ridge often keeps me from the stage, and I’m no longer young enough to stay up until the wee hours of the morning at the song circles on the hill. But finally having the chance to encounter Pat Wictor’s performance in person was a revelation. Thing is, though I had thoroughly enjoyed the few tunes I had found on his website in previous years, now that I’ve had the chance to see him, and spent some time steeping myself in his catalog, I really, really like Wictor’s work.

Wictor’s undeniable talent as a performer and songwriter, coupled with the relatively unique combination of bluesy, fluid, slide-guitar-driven folk and spiritually uplifting lyrics, are a potent mix. His warm, mellow tenor drips with Dave Carter’s gentle soul, and a soulfulness that is as light and graceful as Odetta’s was deep and dark. Combine this with his powerful, gentle presence – there’s something genuine and earnest about Pat that comes across through both his studio work and his live performance – and you’ve got something rare and precious, indeed.

Pat Wictor isn’t the kind of artist that’s going to make a splash on Contemporary Pop radio, and that’s okay – it’s clearly not his bag. He continues to release his work on his own in-house label, the professional nature of which speaks to a solid attention to his craft, but also seems an indication of a continued existence under the radar. His current tour calendar is sparsely populated with house concerts and co-bills. Four years after the wave of popularity, it’s hard to tell if this is an artist who will still be on the popular folk radar at all a decade from now.

Still, if there was any question that Wictor deserves to stay on our radar, his newest album Living Ever-Lovin’ Live answers it profoundly. Recorded live during a series of intimate 2009 concerts, the album captures an excellent songwriter and performer in fine, confident form, his gentle nature and optimism coming through every graceful lick, and each audience interaction.

A DIY project in every way – self-released, and recorded by the artist as well – Living Ever-Lovin’ Live features several new originals, unreleased takes on crowd favorites, and a trio of familiar blues and gospel songs done up with aplomb. The end result is a sweet, beautiful record, mature and thoughtful, playful and peaceful in turn, refining our impression of Wictor’s genuineness and artistry – and reinforcing my conviction that this is one artist who really should not be forgotten.

Wictor may no longer be eligible for recognition as a new artist, but as Living Ever-Lovin’ Live aptly demonstrates, he deserves our support for a continued canon of work that is well worth our collection and celebration. Here’s a few well-treated covers from his last few albums, shared with permission from this fine folk artist himself; listen and then pick up a copy of Living Ever Loving’ Live direct from Pat Wictor’s website. Perhaps, with our help, we’ll see this potent performer on the main stage once again, where he belongs.

Remember, folks: Cover Lay Down exists first and foremost to promote the artists we feature, so that folk music may continue to stand as a thriving component of culture and community. If you like what you hear, please consider pursuing the links above to purchase work from Pat Wictor, and from all the artists we present.

1,490 comments » | Pat Wictor