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Passenger’s Patchwork reflects the difficulty and connectedness of our moment

July 13, 2020

Music’s ability to touch the soul and heal through shared experience is undeniable. Patchwork from UK based singer-songwriter Passenger (aka Michael David Rosenberg) has a troubadour’s vulnerability, shared through song. His style of acoustic folk-rock has always felt like a cool ocean breeze, a salty hug for the soul.

Chris Vallejo served as both engineer and producer on the latest digital-only release. Andrew Philips contributed to the album’s rich instrumentation, while Richard Brinklow’s piano helps create an earthy, authentic vibe. All proceeds from the release go to The Trussell Trust.

Rosenberg has been in quarantine with the rest of us. His statement that there was never an intention to write a quarantine record seems authentic, yet odd. We all do our part. Doctors and nurses flooded to where they were most needed. Artists create beauty in times of tragedy. Shared memory of tragedy often helps us all cope, and thus songs like “Venice Canals” will always bring me to tears. Pain, suffering, hope, and connection resonate throughout this album, but there’s hope in our inseparability. Clear, deep, melancholy vocals unencumbered with simple guitar accompaniment is perfection. 

“Sword in the Stone” opens the album, resonating most with this blink-in-time we are living through. Like King Arthur, we have no power to vanquish the enemy ahead of time. Only together the coronavirus will be vanquished. “Patchwork” also reflects our moment in time and may be the track that most aligns with the songwriter’s partnership with The Trussell Trust. (The organization’s focus on ending hunger and poverty in the UK earnestly began in April of 2018. The Trussell Trust reports that in March 2019 there was a 19% increase in overall support to millions of people living in poverty, showing a country in crisis before the 2020 pandemic.) The song features lush, intricate instrumentation; lyricism that seemingly defies gravity in its imagery; and fingerpicking lightness, creating true artistry. 

“Year on Year, Day by Day” is a glimmer of what’s ahead, the second cut in this trip through an artist’s coping with chaos. Perky, uptempo, seemingly reassuring musicality hides the stark reality lurking in the lyrics. A poetic genius wields a guitar here. A cover of Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved” reminds us all that those people that are revered are vulnerable, and the harshness of the pandemic’s grief and loss is all-consuming. To me, this version of a beautifully written song enters the category of Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah,” a great version that stands next to its original.

The warm sun of “Queenstown” is sheer perfection. Though many have never been there, to those of us that have, this track is a vacation in our minds back to the place. Music spurs our imaginations, and Passenger certainly provides a vivid soundtrack here. Transitioning into the uptempo “Swimming Upstream,” it’s easy to feel the frenetic, stuck-with-nowhere-to-be phenomenon we are sharing. Not my favorite of the album, but maybe that’s because this song hits too close to the truth.

Patchwork ends with “Summer Rain” and its violin, soaring in warmth and love of this record’s season. The honest longing of this bleeding emotion is painful, yet each piano chord echoes with the promise of a new sunrise. Phantom memories of happier times, acknowledging we are all a bit frayed, are the only way to gracefully bow out of this tragic dance: stronger, bound through our collective survival. Passenger’s use of the metaphor in the title reveals one thing. We are all stronger connected, despite our flaws and weaknesses. Like jellyfish in the Venice Canals, this album’s shared purpose may be to provide Patchwork binding fans together to help The Trussell Trust.–Lisa Whealy

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Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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