How to get an early listen of Irish transplant Pat Byrne's 'Into the Light'
Austin360 On The Record is a weekly roundup of new, recent and upcoming releases by local and Austin-associated recording artists.
Pat Byrne, “Into the Light.” One of our Austin360 Artists of the Month back in 2019, Byrne had at that point recently moved here from his native Ireland, a few years after winning his home country’s version of the competitive TV show “The Voice.” His victory included a big-label record deal, but the experience ultimately left Byrne wanting more control over his artistic identity.
That desire led him to Austin, where he’s gradually grown from being an interpreter of well-known songs (he sang “What a Wonderful World” and Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” on “The Voice”) into a formidable songwriter. A 2018 EP, “Rituals,” hinted at his budding talent; on this full-length release, Byrne reaches his full potential.
Working at Nashville studio Sound Emporium with former Austinite Billy Harvey as producer, Byrne delivers 11 original tunes ranging from the buoyant pop of “Capsize” to the anthemic rock & roll of the title track to the tender balladry of “Precious Cargo” and “Win Lose or Drown.”
A strong supporting cast helps make “Into the Light” one of the best-sounding singer-songwriter albums to come out of Austin in years. Bassist Dave Jacques is best-known for his work with the late John Prine, while veteran keyboardist John Ginty has recorded with Americana luminaries including Kathleen Edwards and Ron Sexsmith. Two tracks feature Byrne’s fellow Irishman Stephen Carolan, who moved to Austin with Byrne but returned home during the pandemic and contributed his parts from afar.
Byrne also sought out a few key songwriting collaborators, with magnificent results. Ben Jones of Beat Root Revival helped him write album-opener “Feeling Indigo,” a midtempo track with a hypnotically beautiful groove that spotlights the higher end of Byrne’s impressive vocal range. Miles Zuniga (of Fastball and the Resentments) co-wrote “I Woulda Done It For You,” which emphasizes the adventurous rhythms of drummer-percussionist Fred Eltringham.
Best of all is the folk-pop gem “Losing Heart,” a co-write with former Austinite Jaimee Harris delivered as a duet. The deep emotionalism of their alternating voices in the verses gives way to rich harmonies in the chorus, bolstered by the dramatic twang of Joshua Grange’s pedal steel accents.
What ultimately stands out the most, though, is how strong “Into the Light” is from start to finish. Every track radiates, and rewards repeated listening. Next month will see a higher-profile local release from recent English transplant Jade Bird on Glassnote Records; but with this self-released gem, Byrne has set the bar for our British Isles expats quite high.
“Into the Light” will be available on streaming platforms July 9. Byrne will have CDs available at an album-launch show at Saxon Pub on Saturday, June 26, his last local show before he heads out on tour next month. Here’s the video for “Capsize”:
Out this week
Surfaces, “Pacifico.” College Station’s answer to Austin juggernaut Dayglow? The duo of Forrest Frank and Colin Padalecki take a different approach to pop music than recent University of Texas grad Sloan Struble, who recently rode Dayglow’s wave to an “Austin City Limits” TV taping. But there’s a similar youthful pop innocence going on here, if grounded more in reggae and calypso rhythms than in synthpop adventures.
Like Dayglow’s 2018 breakout hit “Can I Call You Tonight?” and 2019's “Hot Rod,” Surfaces went viral with the early tracks “24/7/365” and “Sunday Best,” leading to a 2020 collaborative single with Elton John after the release of the group’s third album, “Horizons.” Their fourth, “Pacifico,” is full of bright and bubbly tunes recorded in Southern California, which seems a more likely geographical match for their sound than College Station. (Padalecki was attending Texas A&M when he met Baylor grad Frank in 2017.)
Speaking to American Songwriter magazine, Frank summed up what he and Padalecki are aiming for: “I feel like a lot of times our music is the after (effect) of letting things go, like some people’s music is talking about the current situation of pain or the blues that they’re in. Our music is after getting through those things. And then the release is the tears of joy. It’s a hug. It’s the ketamine.”
Release show Friday, June 25, at Stubb’s (sold out). Here’s the video for the single “Wave of You”:
JULY 2: Mr. Linen, “Stay Cool”
JULY 9: Flatlanders, “Treasure of Love” (Thirty Tigers)
JULY 9: Giovanni Carnuccio III, “A Matter of Time”
JULY 16: Danilo, “All I Want” EP
JULY 17: Roky Erickson tribute album, “May the Circle Remain Unbroken” (Light in the Attic)
JULY 17: Christine Renner, “Heartbreaker” EP, release show July 17 at Empire
JULY 23: Robert Harrison, “Watching the Kid Come Back,” release show July 30 at 3Ten
JULY 23: Molly Burch, “Romantic Images” (Captured Tracks), playing Sept. 21 at Mohawk
JULY 23: Dallas Burrow, self-titled, release show July 23 at Sagebrush
JULY 30: Nobody’s Girl, self-titled (Lucky Hound), release show July 29 at venue TBA
AUG. 13: Jade Bird, “Different Kinds of Light” (Glassnote)
AUG. 20: James McMurtry, “The Horses and the Hounds” (New West)
AUG. 27: Shinyribs, “Late Night TV Gold”
AUG. 27: Alejandro Escovedo, “La Cruzada”
AUG. 27: Blk Odyssy, “Blk Vintage”
AUG. 27: Bob Schneider, “In a Room Full of Blood With a Sleeping Tiger”
AUG. 27: Altin Sencalar, “Reconnected” (Next Level), release show Aug. 27 at East Austin Piano Shop
AUG. 27: Suzanne Santo, “Yard Sale,” release show Aug. 26 at Antone’s.
SEPT. 10: Heartless Bastards, “A Beautiful Life” (Unknown/Thirty Tigers)
SEPT. 17: Rod Gator, “For Louisiana” (Blue Elan)
OCT. 31: Shinyribs, “Boombox Piñata”