Country music has a particular obsession with the idea of authenticity, so pointing out that Pat Reedy wrote the songs on his third album during breaks on constructions jobs around Nashville is a way of establishing his bona fides: he’s no soft-handed college boy trying on a working-class persona, he’s the real deal, with the calluses to prove it. That’s nice, but it’s probably worth remembering that Kris Kristofferson has an authentic streak, too, and he was a Rhodes Scholar. In other words, the music is what matters, and Reedy’s songs sound like he means them.
Formerly a street busker in New Orleans (even more cred!), Reedy passes up pop-country in favor of a harder-edged sound built around pedal steel guitar, Telecaster twang and a skillful balance between wry humor and plain-spoken sentiment. He mixes the latter two into a generous pour of hard-won wisdom as he sings about, well, life: there’s various shades of love, loneliness, a little luck and, on “Funny Thing About a Hammer,” a pretty solid plan to ignore what’s on the news and go fishing instead. Reedy praises a significant other for putting up with him on opener “Bloodshot Heart,” and lets another one know she can ease up on the character critiques on “You Don’t Have to Tell Me Again,” a song that’s jauntier than you’d think thanks to a taut bassline and bright swells of steel guitar. Maybe it’s a break-up song, maybe it’s just an exasperated spat—Reedy doesn’t make it explicit, which is part of why it works so well.
He has tuneful baritone voice, and he always sounds affable, whether he’s saying goodbye to New Orleans on “Fare Thee Well” or repeating the refrain in a matter-of-fact way on “That’s All There Is (And There Ain’t No More)” over punchy bass and trebly lead guitar parts. Despite the occasional lyrical cliche, Reedy is also capable of sharp turns of phrase: “Everyone’s an outlaw until the cocaine wears off,” he sings on “Nashville Tennessee at 3 AM,” one of those taking-stock songs that reinforces the notion that nothing good happens that late at night.
Along with his skill as a lyricist, Reedy and the Longtime Goners also have a knack for stick-in-your-head melodies. Nearly every song on That’s All There Is has earworm potential: maybe today you wake up with the fiddle part and the refrain from “Fare Thee Well” stuck in your head; tomorrow it could be the advice to ignore “holy-rollin’ preaching” and “high-minded politics” on “Conversation With Jesus,” or the yearning for a far-away spouse on “Wedding Ring.” Those are the touches that give Reedy his authenticity: his songs feel real because he’s singing about relatable stuff, and he is a persuasive and sympathetic narrator. To quote Reedy, that’s all there is, but it’s more than enough.