Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pssst! I'd walk 5 miles for Pat McLaughlin

Got a text message Friday from my niece in Nashville. It read simply:

too bad you weren't in town tonight...

Attached was an email slugged "Pat McLaughlin Show -- TONIGHT!'' You little shit.

He isn't well-known outside Music City, but Pat McLaughlin is one of the favorites in a town bursting with musical talent. I saw him for the first time way back in 1986 and became an immediate fan. If you have the itch to visit Nashville you need to build in enough flexibility to include a show by one of the most enjoyable and energetic performers you'll see.

I once watched an exhausting, sweat-drenched show during which the funkified, gyrating McLaughlin went through three T-shirt changes.

Problem is, McLaughlin only plays about once a month, on a Friday night at Douglas Corner Cafe. And his website at is often hopelessly out of date. If you hit it right, get to the club early or you'll be standing against the entrance wall for the entire show.

Among Nashville songwriters McLaughlin's peers would include John Prine and David Olney, another under-the-radar treasure. As a performer it's difficult to put anybody in his class. He's that good, especially when he's grinding away on his old red Fender Telecaster. And if his band happens to include guitarist Kenny Greenberg and bass player Michael Rhodes, well, the place will be smoking hot.

One of my favorite Pat albums is Next 5 Miles, a delightful 2003 romp that showcases the Iowa native's musical diversity and song-writing chops. On it is the bluesie "Mornin' Train'' (co-written by Prine, and included two years later on Prine's Fair and Square album) that includes this shout-out to Ray Charles:

Hey, Hey, Brother Ray
What'd you mean by "what'd I say"
You put me on a morning train
You put me on a morning train
There ain't no need to explain
You put me on a morning train...

And I've never counted the letters, but it must be correct when he sings:

Constantinople is a big long word
Got three more letters than mockingbird
You put me on a morning train...

Good enough for a PSSST (Personal Six String Sanctuary Tout)? Hell, yeah. Ain't no need to explain...


  1. This reminds me of my one complaint about last night's Son Volt show: Jay Farrar is the most boring entertainer I've ever seen live.

  2. Don't get me wrong, the content was great, but I like a little more interplay between singer and crowd.