In case you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to be a semi-unknown singer-songwriter on tour, playing the role of the opener that nobody came to hear, you can hear it and feel it in the opening track and second single “used 2 be a romantic” on Field Medic’s latest release Fade Into the Dawn.
Field Medic is the stage name of Kevin Patrick, who to my ear straddles the worlds of indie-folk and singer-songwriters, with his stripped-down acoustic songs of blunt personal observations. This song lets you know immediately what’s going on, as Patrick sings in his plaintive tenor, “I need a cigarette / those fuckers talked over my whole set.”
The song is based on an experience the California-based musician had at a show in Brooklyn. He wrote the song in his head the next day and played it that night in Boston. ” … The first thing I did when I got home from the tour was record the song in a frenzy to expel those bad feelings,” he says. “It was never even written down on paper, it was just a blast of internalized feelings and I’m glad to have it out.”
The album as a whole reminds me of certain low-fi recording artists of the ’90s, and Patrick’s songwriting is raw and immediate in a way that matches that personal, home-recording ethos. Many of these songs are almost frighteningly intimate looks into his soul. “the bottle’s my lover, she’s just my friend” explores his troubled relationship with alcohol and its effect on his personal relationships – appropriately in a country music-like setting. The nearly rocking “henna tattoo” belies its upbeat arrangement with lyrics about his insecurity in relationships. “mood ring baby” is one of my two favorites along with that darkly witty opener “used 2 be a romantic.” It’s a Dylanesque folk paean to his muse, with whom he has a typically troubled relationship.
Those songs pale next to a couple truly bleak offerings, both of them totally lo-fi arrangements that highlight Patrick’s moods. “songs are worthless now” is an apolyptic vision about the failure of both love and art in the face of worldly disaster, and the final track “helps me forget” is set to a gentle waltz tune, as Patrick sings in an insecure, quavery voice the lyrics about crippling self-doubt.
The bleakness is offset by the true wit Field Medic displays in the lyrics, even at their darkest. And wisely he leavens the black humor with some truly upbeat songs. “tournament horseshoe” is a hoedown love song, a country shuffle set to a jangly banjo; on “everydayz 2moro”‘ he pushes cheesy synth drums way out front, the arrangement belying the song’s homey lyrics about his love for his girlfriend, his one point of stability in a parapetitic artist’s life; and “i was wrong,” significantly placed on the second track, is an upbeat anthem in which Patrick flings negativity into the faces of anyone who doesn’t believe in him. “I was wrong, but wrong ain’t me.”
Field Medic’s music at first glance seems pretty far from the country, Americana and traditional folk music that typically hits my pleasure spot. But I’m totally won over by Kevin Patrick’s creative and subtle wordplay and blunt portrayal of his own emotional states inside catchy but minimal tunes.
(Run For Cover, 2019)