A songwriter of breathtaking range, Ballantyne is one of those rare musical talents who is perfectly happy working behind the scenes to create songs that capture the hearts and imagination of music lovers, and hearing them interpreted or re-interpreted through the voices of others. ~ Lithium Magazine
Usually content to for others, and with others, Patrick released his debut self-titled album in 2008. Initially intended as “demo reel” to match artists with his songs, it found its own footing when Canadian music industry icon Ron Harwood placed it among one of his 5 best independent releases of the year. But, unlike his debut, his latest album, Days of Rain, contains songs that were written without the expectation that they would be adopted out.
Patrick explains, “The whole album came about because there had been a lot of loss in my circle of family and friends. There was all this heaviness going on and it influenced the record. That’s where the Days of Rain title came from. It was about trying to get through the dark to find the light. Even though there is loss, you have to remember all that’s worth living for. Essentially, that is the theme of the record … dealing with those struggles. Directing all that into music is how I deal with it.”
In contrast to his first album, Days of Rain, is more philosophical and esoteric. “Who I Am”, with it’s droning Indian tanpura and sweeping acoustic guitars, tells a tale of packing up your life and moving across the country to start a fresh. “I’ll Follow You” chronicles the feeling of emptiness after bereavement, and surrendering to life events that seem cruel and unfair. “I’ve Got a Feeling" tells the story of someone ready to leave, while a loved one refuses to let go. “It could be about a relationship” Ballantyne explains, “but in fact was written while watching a loved one struggle with a long illness”.
The title track “Days of Rain - Hundred Year Flood” is a stand out piece for its political and emotional implications. Co-written with Colin MacDonald of The Trews, the song was initially inspired by the Nashville flooding four years ago. Ballantyne was moved to pen the track by the lack of national media attention the floods received, despite the deaths and devastation. Patrick elaborates, “the news media only has so much bandwidth, I guess. The deaths of 30 people and horrific loss of home and property could not compete for attention with the Times Square bombing and the Gulf oil spill which occurred at the same time”. But like the song says…”Down in Music City they took care of their own”. It could just as easily be about the Alberta floods, Manitoba or even the floods in Toronto in 2013. “Anymore”, Ballantyne shrugged, “hundred year floods seem to be annual events”.
“King of the Road” was previously recorded in slightly different form by co-writer and singer Meredith Shaw. “My version is a bit more of a wake up call to myself…‘get on your way’, the lyrics say…'get out of your way”!
Similarly, “Lift Me Up” is a song about wrestling control of your own life away from negativity, brought on with by others or by yourself. Speaking of wrestling, “Wrestling With the Devil” chronicles efforts to break away from addiction. Patrick says, “The song was triggered by the deaths of Cory Monteith, and then Philip Seymour Hoffman shortly thereafter. But, more immediately, I’ve watched friends struggle, some successfully, others not”.
The album is not without lighter moments, though they are somewhat blurred. The country-folk foot tapper “I’m Yours” hides lyrics that once again talk about devotion and surrender. It is a vocal duet with close friend and Big Sugar multi-instrumentalist Kelly “Mister Chill” Hoppe. Patrick recalls, “we managed to polish off some wine and sang that together into a single mic…one of the most enjoyable sessions I’ve been involved with…it is a fun track!”
“The Devils Note”, which ends the album, is a story about a note from Satan that gets misdirected. According to Patrick, “The recipient dutifully packs his bag and heads to hell, only to find out it wasn’t his time quite yet…but he notes that the lineup was ‘crazy long’!”
Despite the somber subjects, the album has a redemptive quality. This is reflected in the artwork (courtesy of Danny Deluca) and acknowledged in the dedication to ‘the people who lift him up everyday’ – his wife and daughter.
Sonically, the songs of Days of Rain are influenced by Motown, the Beatles, Pink Floyd and classic “singer-songwriters”. Lyrically, however, the themes of loss and renewal make clear that Ballantyne is channeling ‘Soul Music’.
Ballantyne produced the album alongside Windsor-based producer Mark Plancke, and played all the instruments on Days of Rain excluding drums, which were played by Windsor percussionist Christian Bonk.
Ballantyne will play some select dates in the coming months, while continuing to write whenever he can with long-time collaborators and some new artists. Patrick explains, “I love co-writing…one never knows what will emerge. Writing is what I do most naturally…but every now and again I need to get on stage…to reference John Lee Hooker…it’s in me, it’s got to come out!”