Way back in the decade past, Patrick Park, who was raised in Morrison, played in Idle Mind, an act whose self-titled 1996 release on the sh-mow imprint sounded more commercially viable than it turned out to be. Loneliness may fare better, and not only because Hollywood, a major label, is behind it. The highly promising disc offers country-flavored singer-songwriter sounds that occasionally flirt with sappiness but avoid this fate more often than not because of Park's clear-eyed intelligence, first-rate songcraft and the occasional noisy gee-tar.
"Thunderbolt," the lovely opener, establishes a folky tone via a wheezy harmonica, gentle strumming and a whisper of strings that envelops potentially aggressive lyrics ("She's a thunderbolt/With guns and fire") rendered poignant by Park's light tenor. "Honest Skrew" and "Sons of Guns," which follow, sport electrified chords and heavier backbeats, but they never lose their melancholic tinge. Even when Park is expressing desire, as in "Your Smile's a Drug," he hammers at himself via couplets such as "To say I'll be all right would be a risky bet/'Cause I'm about as good as I'm going to get." Fortunately, he sets his scab-picking to beguiling melodies with just enough pop fizz to prevent songs like "Past Poisons" from inspiring listeners to crack open the Drano.
"Bullets by the Door," in which Park tries on some anthemic boogie for size, is entertaining enough, but he's more convincing on "Desperation Eyes," a tune marked by pedal steel and a rousing chorus that might feel corny were it not for some edgy metaphors: "I'm the 'Open' sign that's always busted/I'm the friend you need but can't be trusted." Obviously, Park, who opens for Liz Phair at the Paramount Theatre on Wednesday, July 30, knows that an idle mind is just as capable of devilry as are idle hands. Welcome to his workshop.
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