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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Fans tip their hats to Pat Green

The country singer, who has been known to perform barefoot, is the real deal.

October 15, 2002|Randy Lewis | Times Staff Writer

Texas country-rocker Pat Green had to borrow a cowboy hat from a fan Sunday at the Coach House to sing a song about a guy who's so attached to his hat that he boasts, "You can take it off me sometime after I am dead."

Trouble is, the hat was maybe three sizes shy of fitting, creating a cute sight gag and prompting Green to quip, "Nobody has a head as big as mine."

The reality, however, is pretty much the opposite. Green, an alt-country phenomenon in Texas who's just starting to spread his reputation outside the Lone Star State, is as grounded as they come.

In a country world brimming with singers who were signed because of the way they look in a hat or how they fill out a tight T-shirt instead of how they write or sing, Pat Green is the real deal.

His major-label debut album, "Three Days," is refreshingly free of the stock phrases and over-generalized situations that too often pass for songwriting. His songs look at social mavericks and loners who ponder the big picture while knocking back beers and chomping Texas barbecue.

Green wraps his witty and intelligent lyrics in catchy melodies and tasty rhythms that bounce from straight country to sweeping heartland rock to thick country funk. He and his six-piece band also play live with fire and infectious camaraderie. That combination has made Green a top draw in Texas after years of constant gigging.

So although his weekend shows -- he also was among about a dozen acts that played the annual KZLA (93.9 FM) Country Bash on Saturday in Irvine -- were his first in Southern California, Green exhibited the easy command of a veteran.

Decompressing on the band's tour bus after the nearly two-hour set at the Coach House, Green, accompanied by his wife, Kori, and their chihuahua, seemed genuinely surprised by the intensity with which he was greeted by the San Juan Capistrano audience.

Fans sang along fervently not only with the album's title song and "Carry On," tracks that have received airplay on KZLA, but also the others he sang from "Three Days" and many from his earlier albums.

"There were a lot of die-hard people here tonight," Green said. "We get all of the transplants, but I also noticed a lot of people who likely are from around here singing with the other songs.

"That's how you make a career," he said. "A lot of musicians make the mistake of thinking that if you have a hit or two, you'll sell a lot of records and tickets right away. That's just not the case. If you don't go out on tour, and you're not good on stage, you're not going to sell records."

Green, 30, has sold a respectable number for a musician who wasn't known much beyond Texas a year ago. He's sold nearly a quarter million copies combined of his five independent-label albums, and almost 200,000 of "Three Days" since it was released by Republic/Universal Records last October.

Playing bars, theaters and arenas in Texas, Green got so comfortable -- and not just because he typically shows up on stage barefoot -- that for years he had no desire to play anywhere else. He was successful enough releasing albums on his own that he could wait for an offer that allowed him control over what he records.

Waiting patiently came early to Green, who grew up in a blended family with 11 children. Having so many brothers and sisters also meant he was exposed to music of all kinds. His father acted in musical theater, so on top of all the pop music he also was immersed in Broadway and classical.

"When you've got that many kids, you need help, and a lady who took care of us was a very country woman, and she brought country into my life," Green said.

"She listened to Merle Haggard, Jerry Jeff Walker, the Bellamy Brothers, all the nuts and bolts of what country is. When I started writing songs, that's what came out. Country music is a more specific kind of writing, it's not quite as abstract, and that's where I feel more comfortable."

*

Pat Green plays Wednesday at Montana's, 657 W. Arrow Highway, San Dimas. 9 p.m. $10. (909) 592-2211.

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