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  • Writer's pictureLuke Wolk

Pat McDougall Album Review

Artist: Pat McDougall Album: In The Key of Sorry Released: 2023 Website: Pat McDougall is a Portland, Oregon based blues piano man and one hell of a lyricist. He is a wordsmith on par with Tom Waits and contemporary blues drummer, producer and songwriter Tom Hambridge. His latest release, In The Key of Sorry, is a 13 song set that clocks in at a little over an hour. The record is a mix of classic blues and what I would loosely call "soul blues". His lyrics are quite clever and the songs are just plain fun, which is something I don't hear a lot of in blues music these days. The album starts with the title cut In The Key of Sorry. It is a classic blues shuffle that has everything that a fan of the genre will look for. It is kicked off by a Motown inspired drum pickup, quickly moving to a solid groove with a rolling piano, a tasty guitar solo and a great lyric. This is one that sounds like it was born on Bourbon Street and never left.

Don't Ask A Boy is another standout for multiple reasons. Again Pat's lyrical prowess shows itself. This is a guy that can tell a great story in the context of a five minute blues tune. The slide guitar playing of Alan Hager is exceptional and the band lays down a syrupy groove that oozes with patience and swag. Pat McDougall is able to move seamlessly from being the vocalist in the forefront of the mix to a supporting role within the rhythm section, allowing the spotlight to move to the well deserved guitarist.

Love Won't Let Me Down is a track that also has the scent of Bourbon Street. For an artist from Oregon, Pat McDougall sure has some deep southern roots in his music. My only criticism is this 7:15 second cut is too short. The instrumental passes are the highlight on this one. The rolling piano solo and guitar lead are executed perfectly. The backing vocals on the end of the song bring the whole band to a crescendo in a way that can only happen in a southern Baptist church. The final three tracks, Which Way The Cold Wind Blows, Well Acquainted With The Blues and I'm That Guy, move back to the straight blues. These few, coupled with the first handful of tracks should satisfy the purists and then some. This is a band that clearly understands the intricacies of the blues. They seem to have all the subtle moves in their pocket that take the performance to a mature and seasoned level that is blatantly clear when they are laying into the blues.

In The Key of Sorry is a wonderful and diverse set of blues, roots and soul music. I think it is that mix that is reminiscent of New Orleans. NOLA is one of those music towns that seems to mix all the ingredients a bit differently, twisting the music something that is all it's own. I suppose that is true of most blues music towns. Memphis, Chicago and Austin all have their own distinct sound, but something about the NOLA sound makes it feel like there are just a few more ingredients in the gumbo and this record is a shining example of it. Great songwriting, production and performances are peppered throughout the entirety of the 13 songs. The band is more than competent and delivers a fantastic set of cleverly written tunes. If you are a fan of blues with a good size pinch of soul music you will love this record.

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