In times like we’ve been living, maybe we could all use a friendly voice to lead us to the other side. Perhaps one of music’s most wonderful capabilities is its undeniable ability to bring us comfort in times of tumult. Surely, the sonic pleasantries and lyrical content of some tunes lend themselves to being that warm blanket that covers you and, say, a whole bunch of your friends.
Pat Ferguson’s new single “The Confidence Man” seems to capture some of the challenging sentiments that many of us have been tackling in recent times. His first offering since his freshman solo album Light of Day / Dark of Night, his work continues to be a pleasant and innately comforting marriage of conscientious songwriting and sonic awareness.
Lyrical content aside, the tactful use of gentle percussion, melodic acoustic guitar, and lush string arrangements give “The Confidence Man” a vibration of solace. At times, Ferguson’s songwriting and arrangements evoke a similar feeling to some of my favorite tracks from Simon & Garfunkel. With harmony support from The Midnight North’s Elliott Peck, the vocals soar with these long, almost tear-jerking, vocal passages. For me, they’re the point in the song where I either digest the painfully pertinent content, or I get entirely lost in the sheer beauty of the composition. Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone laid down a bed of strings that deeply contribute to the multifaceted emotional ride that this tune manages to take you on. At times they are consoling and at other times, they sound like the process of letting go of anger and negativity that holds us down from soaring on.
From a lyrical standpoint, Ferguson speaks of “The Confidence Man” as a figure in power “there upon your thrown” with his “heart splintered with timbers”. Despite his disdain for this individual, a layer of empathy still exists as he gently asks the question, “Don’t you feel alone? There upon your throne? All high, and mighty, and strong?” Alas, the pain and hurt caused by the figure in power eventually lead the singer to the realization that it’s time to “say goodbye, to all the lies, and tears cried, I’m done with you, and all you do, goodbye for good”. In doing so, it seems that Ferguson portrays the reality that we can all leave things, people, or places in the past, on our own terms, when it’s time to move on to the next chapter.
While art is often made to be interpreted by the individual and seen through their own lens, it’s sometimes also indicative of an era. Songs like “Ohio” by Neil Young, “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot, and “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell embody a time and space. Perhaps “The Confidence Man” is that for us right now, while also serving as a reminder of where we’ve come and where we wish not to return. Perhaps Ferguson’s soothing voice and thoughtful arrangement can bring us the comfort we seek. In the very least, I promise you that this song frankly just sounds really damn nice, all micro-analyzing aside. Ferguson, Carbone, and Peck came together and made us all one heck of a warm blanket and I, for one, am grateful.
Adam Greuel is a renowned songwriter, guitarist, and producer. He is a founding member of and guitarist for Horseshoes & Hand Grenades and The High Hawks. Album production credits include Pat Ferguson’s first record “Light of Day / Dark of Night,” as well as Barbaro’s “Dressed in Roses.”