I had the pleasure of meeting Dave Patterson, songwriter/bass guitarist for the aptly named band Peddle Steal when we were students together in the Stonecoast MFA program. He came to me when he’d heard about my third-semester project, Today’s Body, to ask me, “How’d ya do it?”
He told me he was toying with writing some lyrics for his third semester project and I gave him a few pointers on how to survive the semester without going crazy.
Six months later I saw Dave again, and the first words out of his mouth were, “I produced an album.” His little lyrics idea had expanded into a recording project: the album How We Hunger.
My first listen was at a live performance of the second track on the album “Turn Me Loose.” Seeing Dave throttle his guitar with the country “train rhythms” typical to Johnny Cash’s music, I expected him to open his mouth and sing. I figured his indie voice would create an interesting and smooth contrast to the train engine beat, and the song would be cross-genre, like something in the vein of Mumford and Sons. Meanwhile, his adorable wife was bouncing next to him through the intro and I noticed she was holding a microphone. Then, she opened her mouth and sang the shit out of that song.
What she sang wasn’t some attempt to repurpose a genre, it was a love letter to the past, and Dave had written that love letter for her. Not a love song: he wrote material as an inspired artist for a great vocalist. The energy behind the beat, the chord progressions, the key the song had been written in—all of it was so clearly for her, it fit her voice perfectly.
When I asked him about the album after the performance, Dave said he selected his wife Anna and James Welsch to sing on the album because of their likeness to country legends Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. Then, he gave me my own copy of the album, and I listened to it, hard.
Unlike June, who was overshadowed by Johnny Cash, Anna seems to vocally outshine her duet partner James Welsch, whose tone is too broad at times. The story embedded in the lyrics seems to favor the female vocalist too—the sinning little woman who catches men “with [her] sundress.” Her murder in the opening song immortalizes her, and the listener is reminded of that throughout the rest of the album.
I appreciated the album’s focus on the tortured feelings of a man who knows he’s in love for the wrong reasons. Similar to the style and emotion of Johnny Cash’s lyrics, Dave writes simply poignant lines like “What’s a man to do when he’s been wounded by the sun,” and “The country music song that played it understands these final days,” that hint at bigger questions than what to do with a love story gone wrong.
In it’s stylistic integrity, this love letter to the past honors a genre instead of trying to reinvent one, and Dave’s gift to his listeners is the honor he pays to his wife’s talent. It’s not the harmonies or phrasing that indicate the inspiration behind this work, it’s the album as a whole that shows Dave let his inspiration barrel down a track with the power of a freight train.