Country music has long been a canvas for artists wanting to paint a portrait of their heartache and pain. And nobody may know pain better than Alberta musician Matt Patershuk who plays the Geomatic Attic here on March 20.
The 30-something resident of LaGlace, a town in northern Alberta, lost his 26-year-old sister Clare in 2013 to a drunk driver.
Patershuk’s second album, “I Was So Fond of You,” was inspired by — and is dedicated to — his sister whose portrait of an elderly man graces the cover of the CD.
Patershuk recorded the album at The Henhouse studio in Nashville with Steve Dawson whom the rising Alberta artist had contacted via email to produce his first disc.
Fellow Canadian Dawson has worked with a smorgasbord of artists over the years “and even though he didn’t know me from Adam” agreed to work with Patershuk, a father with a young family who works full-time in bridge construction.
By the time Patershuk was ready to record the tribute to his sister, he and Dawson had established a strong musical connection.
Patershuk didn’t take up music as a profession until he was 30 and the late bloomer said “I was so ignorant about making an album the first time around.”
He is obviously a quick learner, though. “So Fond” is a heartfelt collection of traditional country ballads with a few uptempo numbers sung in a distinctive gravelly baritone voice. Patershuk is a throwback to a previous generation where the only pop in country was used to dilute whiskey.
While Clare inspired the tone of the album, she is also the direct focus of two songs. About the title track, Patershuk says in liner notes “Clare was the best sister anyone could ever want. Kind, principled & intelligent. I still try to live up to her excellent example of what a human being can be.
“Clare was killed by a drunk driver on June 30, 2013. I still miss her desperately. This is my tribute to her.”
On the song “Harviestown,” Patershuk sings about his desire to get revenge on the person who killed his sister. It’s a song filled with simmering rage and anger ready to be uncorked. But as he writes in the liner notes “everyone has these feelings at some point.
“The key is to sing about them & not act on them.”
That song could be an anthem for anyone who has suffered a loss of excruciating pain — Patershuk knows the feeling and expresses with the rawness of a bleeding callus how that pain torments him.
Patershuk, who was born in Burns Lake, B.C. and raised in Edmonton and various other places on the Prairies, grew up listening to country. He developed a fondness for Celtic music from his mother and was influenced by artists such as John Prine and Kris Kristofferson.
With a young family to raise and the difficulties of making a full-time living as a musician, Patershuk isn’t making any moves down the road yet of relying entirely on his craft to feed his kids but he makes perfectly clear he’s as serious as any artist.
“I have a young family and to make a living in Canada (playing music) is a ton of hard work. I’m not willing to be away from the house for all the time it takes to be full time. But I still take it seriously. Nobody can doubt me on that. I’m serious about it. And it’s been working pretty fabulously.”
Patershuk wanted to play Lethbridge thanks to a performance here with Fort Macleod’s John Wort Hannam who brought the northern Albertan along with him on a tour. That road trip brought them to the Geomatic Attic where he met owner Mike Spencer and coming here again was something that Patershuk wanted to experience again.