I had not heard any music of Patrick Sky despite having read about him for many years.
Sky was another of the many folk singers thrown out by the great folk music explosion of the 1960s in the US.
He isn't well known today and, perhaps, is not that well know in casual folk music circles which is a pity because he stood off to one side of the other folkies because of his background.
From, http://thegreatrockbible.com/portfolio-item/patrick-sky-biography/, "Born Patrick Lynch, October 2, 1940 (most sources say 1943), in Live Oak Gardens, nr. Atlanta, Georgia, Patrick was a descendant of the Creek/Muskogee Indians; his grandmother taught him her tribe’s traditional songs. Equally inspired by the legend of WOODY GUTHRIE and satirical political comic Will Rogers (a part-Cherokee Indian), SKY broke away from his people’s base in LaFouche Swamp in Louisiana, firstly to honour his 2-year conscription in the Army, secondly to become a folk-music troubadour, having earlier learned how to play guitar, banjo and harmonica … Alongside fellow Native American BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE (his girlfriend at the time), Patrick toured the coffeehouses and clubs of eastern America during the early half of the 60s, before finally settling into the Greenwich Village scene. With both parties signing to Vanguard Records, his eponymous PATRICK SKY (1965) album (coming as it did a year after Buffy’s debut) was unjustly lumped in with the post-DYLAN clique, much like RICHARD FARINA, DAVID BLUE, et al; these latter acts appeared with SKY on a `Singer-Songwriter Project’ LP for Elektra that year. His debut, meanwhile, consisted of several original compositions (two of them, `Many A Mile’ and `Love Will Endure’, duly borrowed by SAINTE-MARIE and The BLUES PROJECT respectively), while there was a competent mixture of covers and trad songs via TOM PAXTON (`Everytime’) and PETE LaFARGE (`The Ballad Of Ira Hayes’) and `Wreck Of The 97’.
What the short bio doesn't mention and what will have bearing later, and which is obvious from his birth name, is that Sky also had Irish ancestry, though how recent I do not know.
Sky became increasing disillusioned (with the music business apparently though his later music barbed satire is aimed at contemporary society as a whole) and increasingly political. Never a big seller his music became more marginal and he more or less retired in the mid 1970s before returning to the stage in 1984 with a program that mixed Irish traditional music played on the Uillean pipes with original folk songs and gently humorous stories. Sky has become a master craftsman in the making of Irish Uillean pipes and, keeping in line with his other tradition and culture, the Native American mouth-bow.
This album was his first and was released in 1965 and it is a throwback.
Things changed quickly in the 60s.
This would have been the "in" sound in 1962, 1963 or even early 1964 but by 1965 Dylan had plugged in and gone electric and The Byrds were taking "Mr Tambourine Man" into the Pop charts and practically inventing folk rock.
Sky's album was acoustic simplicity defined: he accompanies himself on guitar and harmonica with only the support of Ralph Rinzler’s mandolin on a couple of tracks. The songs are narratives and stories in the old traditions. You can hear the influence of Dylan in here but that's not surprising as he influenced a generation and he actually was a contemporary of Sky's in the Greenwich Village scene.
Does any of this detract from the music?
Hell no, the music is solid but it doesn't give him the instant career boost he would have had if it had come out a couple of years earlier.
He was around earlier but for whatever reason didn't record till now (1965).
It is interesting to note that his later music was more satirical, barbed (and bawdy) but Dave Van Ronk, here, on the liner notes refers to these aspects of Sky's personality and draws comparisons with Rabelais, Will Rogers Marquis de Sade and Bertolt Brecht.
None of that is overt on this set.
But what is clearly heard is the companion to the barbed satirist and that is the person who wears his heart on his sleeve. The romantic, perhaps disillusioned, and usually stubborn.
And, for me, in this age of cheap shot cynicism or plastic truth that is enough.
All songs by Sky unless indicated.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Many a Mile – a beautiful song which became a folk club staple and was covered by Buffy Sainte-Marie on her second album, "Many a Mile", also released in 1965
- Hangin' Round – great Americana folk … with a nice humorous edge. You can hear Pokey Lafarge here.
- Love Will Endure – The gentle love song. And a good one. Covered by The Blues Project on "Live at Town Hall" (1967).
- Reuben – (Traditional) – Not the ship saga Reuben James but a train song with the obligatory harmonica train noise sounds.
- Rattlesnake Mountain – (Traditional) – a good version of the tongue twister old standard. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rattlesnake_Mountain_(song)
- Everytime – (Tom Paxton) – from Tom Paxton's "Ain't That News" album of 1965. A beautiful simple love ballad and one of Paxton's best songs.
- Come With Me Love – a good old school romantic love song.
- Nectar of God – a powerful song much in the vein of Dylan's "Masters of War" or some Townes Van Zandt and John Prine
- Separation Blues – More folk Americana … and, once again, humorous. A treat.
- Ballad of Ira Hayes – (Peter LaFarge) – by LaFarge from his "Ira Hayes" And Other Ballads" (1962) album. The Johnny Cash version is iconic but this version is beautiful.
- Words Without Music – (Stanley) – by Dayle Stanley from her "After the Snow" album from 1963. "Words Without Music" is music without words though as Sky says on the liner notes, with a "variation", because he never got the sheet music from the author.
- Wreck of the 97 – (Dewey/Noell/Wittier) – the traditional country folk song dating back to the 1920s done by everybody including Woody Guthrie, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Johnny Cash. A great version!
Simple but wonderful…. I'm keeping it.
Nothing no where