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Photo by Dante Fontana
Having taught himself to play over 20 different instruments, singer-songwriter Patrick Walsh makes it tough for anyone to categorize him.
On a single album you will likely hear the traditional sounds of guitar, piano, trumpet and drums, and then suddenly have the more obscure instruments – the banjo, mandolin, harmonica, accordion, Jew harp, Native American flute, penny whistle, and upright bass – come waltzing in. “Learning an instrument is one of my favorite things,” says the soft-spoken Walsh, who has been playing since he was six years old. “With a brand-new instrument, I’m completely blind. Exploring it is the most fun.”
Although the five albums Walsh has written, recorded and self-released (four this past year alone!) focus on different themes and cover a broad range, the common threads are folk and bluegrass. Born and raised in Shingle Springs, the mountains and forest are where Walsh is most comfortable and as a result, local history often appears in the lyrics of his songs. Tracks such as “Old Hangtown” illustrate a recurring theme of mining days past.
With his hound dog Molly curled up at his feet, Walsh describes how he has always gravitated toward older musical influences, such as Wayne “The Train” Hancock. Growing up, he listened to a plethora of classical, jazz and old surfer tunes as well. His love for vintage even carries into his movie selection, as he mostly watches black and white Westerns. “I don’t really listen to modern music,” shares Walsh. “None of it really grabs me; I must have been born in the wrong time.”
Walsh has performed in a variety of local venues such as the Cozmic Café in Placerville and Powerhouse Pub in Folsom, as well as Harlow’s, Old Ironside, Shenanigans and Luna’s in Sacramento. When playing live you’ll only see Walsh, his guitar and a harmonica. Recording is where Walsh can really experiment, which he does at home in his “music room” – a room filled to the brim with the varying instruments Walsh has mastered. One of his most powerful, his voice, wasn’t something he used until four years ago when he determined that if he wanted to sell any albums, he needed to sing. “I was really weird about hearing the sound of my own voice at first,” Walsh says. “I would use a ton of effects because I didn’t like it.” On his most recent album, Gone With The Wind, Walsh’s voice is clear and free, delightfully harmonizing tales of the recent recession. With tracks such as “Good Old Days” and “Gasoline,” you’ll be left wondering if the year in question is 1929 or 2011.
Walsh is busy finishing his sixth album, which will be another solo venture. Even down to creating his own album art, Walsh is a one-man show. “I’m a big fan of ‘if you want it done right, do it yourself,’” says Walsh. “I’m just too picky about my music.”
With plans to master the cello and violin soon, Walsh’s electric eccentricity keeps his audience in constant anticipation of what’s up next.
For more information, visit patrickwalshmusic.com.