Pat Nevins will be playing at Cold Spring Tavern in Santa Barbara on May 8, and at San Francisco’s The Plough & Stars on May 22 (www.theploughandstars.com). The band also includes mandolinist Mike McKinley, who in the past played with Gillian Welch, and Amy Gabel, who is a member of Nevins band Ragged Glory and will be performing backing vocals at the show. For someone who has seen both Neil Young and The Grateful Dead hundreds of times in concert, and also been a musician for the last three decades, Pat Nevins has plenty of musical expertise as a performer. He has jammed with members of New Riders of The Purple Sage, as well as Anthony Crawford, who is a current member in Neil Young’s band. Nevins even knows Neil Young, as they met each other in 1999 backstage at the Paramount Theatre, in Oakland, after a solo acoustic performance by Young. Nevins explained his encounter with one of the most enigmatic figures in rock history. “Neil had been busting out rare cuts all evening, so after the show I asked him the name of one of the unreleased songs which he told me was called ‘Pushed It Over The End.’” From that day on Nevins has been in touch with Neil Young, and Young even granted Nevins permission to record covers of five of his original songs for Nevins album Shakey Zimmerman. The songs were, “Lookout Joe,” “Everybody’s Alone,” “Last Trip To Tulsa,” “Ambulance Blues,” and “When You’re On The Losing End,” all of which are obscure Young songs to cover, especially “Everybody’s Alone,” which was somehow discarded during the After The Goldrush sessions and has yet to be released to this day by Young. Also “Ambulance Blues,” is the song off the record On The Beach, which most people have long since forgotten, despite how beautiful a song it is with those classic lines, “It’s easy to get buried in the past.” Not to mention “Lookout Joe,” a song off Tonights The Night, an album that Young’s record label refused to release initially, because they claimed he was making music that didn’t resemble his style. Then there is the long drawn out song “The Last Trip To Tulsa,” which I will say hands down only a die-hard Neil Young fan knows about. “The Last Trip To Tulsa is on Young’s t self titled debut album that sold so poorly that Young changed his musical style from simple country folk to a more rocking second album with a new backing band Crazy Horse. Nevins does justice covering all these songs singing in a high, soft, country voice that brings a natural harmony into your heart and warms up your soul.
As for the Bob Dylan songs Pat Nevins records on Shakey Zimmerman there is the opening song on the album “You’re Going To Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” from 1975s Blood On The Tracks. It is strange to say, but Nevins voice sounds a whole lot better than Dylan’s voice sounds today. Other Dylan covers include the heartfelt “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” as well as dynamic versions of “Things Have Changed,” and “I Threw It All Away.” On Shakey Zimmerman Pat Nevins does a great job of paying tribute to two of the best recording artists and songwriters of the 20th century, Dylan and Young, both of whom are still alive and recording original music today. Both are coming out with albums this year, and their relevance in today’s world is just as strong as it was when both musicians were at their peak recording music in the 1960s and 70s.
Pat Nevins Trio Performing at The Starry Plough in Berkeley during April.
Exclusive Pat Nevins Interview
Pat Nevins is a local Bay Area musician who sings and plays guitar in The Pat Nevins Trio, as well as his own Pat Nevins solo band, (which he released the album Shakey Zimmerman under), and a Neil Young cover band Ragged Glory. Nevins has an uncanny ability to sound like Young when singing. He has also been a member of three well-known Grateful Dead cover bands over the years: Workingmans Ed, Grapefruit Ed, and The Dead Beats. During a recent interview he named Neil Young, Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead, Gram Parsons, Muddy Waters, and George Jones as primary musical influences over the years. But talking to Nevins you get the sense his true musical muse is Neil Young.
To say Pat Nevins has traveled a bit during his life as a musician would be an understatement. He was born in Philadelphia but moved to Lousville, Kentucky, for high school. There he was really into sports, playing lacrosse and street hockey. One afternoon, when Pat was fifteen, he had a life-changing experience, after a game of street hockey with his friend. He returned to his friend’s house and heard his sister playing Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young’s Four Way Street album. Pat asked who it was playing the acoustic versions of the songs, “On The Way Home”, “Cowgirl In The Sand,” and “Don’t Let It Bring You Down.” “Neil Young” was the sister’s reply, and the next day Nevins was so inspired that he went out and bought his first guitar and immediately began learning Young’s songs. Nevins discovered that his voice naturally sounded like Young’s; he didn’t have to do any vocal stretching to hit those incredible high notes.
In April 1978, at the age of seventeen, Nevins saw his first Grateful Dead show at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. He no longer remembers much about this first as he fell asleep halfway through the long set. It would be two years until Nevins went to his next Dead show in Athens, Ohio, as he was now attending college at The University of Ohio. The Dead were just entering a new era at the time of this not only because it was the turn of the decade, but also Grateful Dead keyboardist Keith Godchaux had died in a car crash, and had been replaced by Brent Mydland. Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith’s wife and a backing vocalist in The Grateful Dead also left the band after Keith’s death. According to Pat, he met Dead Heads at the show in 1980 who had tons of live Dead cassettes from gigs, and he thought that this was the coolest thing.
In December of 1981, Nevins went to a string of Grateful Dead shows. “I followed them from Dayton, Ohio, to Champaign Illinois, Indianapolis, Indiana, Chicago, Illinois, and Iowa City, Iowa, he said. “I went all over the Midwest that December and I definitely caught the bug of being on tour with The Dead. I started noticing stuff in the parking lot with people selling t-shirts and other merchandise and thought to myself this is cool. I learned how to play guitar from other Dead Heads who hung out in the parking lot all day before the show would start. I went from being in the parking lot to getting so connected with people who knew the members of the band that I would often stay in the same hotel with them.” Eventually, Pat got to know all the members in the band and would often hangout drinking with them in the hotel bar after shows.
In 1985, Pat Nevins moved to Chicago and started a band with some friends called The Dead Beats, which played mostly Dead covers. He said, “The Dead Beats were part of the Chicago Dead Head scene that was forming right before Jerry Garcia got sick with diabetes in 1985.” In this time period, The Dead Beats played over six-hundred shows and played every Dead song you can name.
In 1992, The Dead Beats broke up while Pat was living in Dear Creek, Indiana, and for a while Nevins musical career was dormant. Then seeing Jerry Garcia perform on the Summer 1994 Grateful Dead tour, Nevins knew something was up. “Jerry looked awful, the worst I had ever seen him. He wasn’t a three-hundred-pound balloon like he was in the 80s, but there was something in his face, and his body language, the way he hunched over his guitar and was messing up vocals, that I could tell he was back on heroin and on his last legs. There was death in his face.,” said Nevins. Garcia’s conditon prompted Nevins to move out to California, where he knew he could catch as many Dead shows as possible before Jerry’s demise.
As we wrap up our interview at The Missouri Lounge, Nevins orders another pint of Pilsner and begins to jam with some of the people in the outdoor tented area where the heaters are blasting. Nevins is handed an acoustic guitar and immediately rips into a steller version of Neil Young and Crazy Horse "Down By The River," from Young's second album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. This is followed by superb acoustic Young covers of "Old Man," where many people at the bar join Nevins in singing the chorus, "Old man take a look at my life, I'm a lot like you. I need someone to love me the whole day through. Oh just look at my eyes and you tell that's true." Nevins wrapped up the night with two more Young covers, "Tell Me Why," from After The Goldrush and one of his favorite songs, Young's "Like A Hurricane," from his late 70's bar-bender album American Stars N' Bars. It was great to meet such an experienced musician as Pat Nevins, who not only has a fascinating background, from all the bands he's been in, to all the places he's lived and traveled, but also he has a broad range of musical expertise. His next two shows this month will be worth checking out.
To See Pat Nevins online go to: http://www.myspace.com/patricknevins