The first time I stepped foot into the modest apartment of Pat Thomas in Leland, Mississippi, the experience was akin to what Alice probably felt when she tumbled down the rabbit hole. But unlike Wonderland’s lengthy cast of characters, the madness and magic of Pat’s place belongs to Pat alone.
The first thing I noticed was an enormous suitcase just inside the doorway. It was sagging under the weight of its contents. “Going somewhere?” I asked Pat.
“Oh, no,” he responded. “Check this out!” With that, he tipped the suitcase onto its side and unzipped it, revealing tens of thousands of magazine pages arbitrarily ripped from random publications.
“What are you going to do with all of that?”
“I’m not sure yet,” Pat told us, but he was clearly excited by the possibilities.
As we worked our way deeper into his apartment, Pat revealed more treasures: a rusty can filled with marbles, a plastic basket filled with power adapters with their cords snipped off, another basket with said cords, a pile of small, smooth stones, a nearly complete set of encyclopedias scavenged from a dumpster.
Much of this apparent clutter would eventually be incorporated into Pat’s artwork. His primitive drawings, paintings and sculptures populate every nook and cranny of his place. They’re stacked on the floor, taped to the walls, propped on the windowsills. His favored subjects include snakes, birds and – most frequently – cats.
Scrawled across many of Pat’s paintings and drawings are the words, “Love Daddy Always,” a tribute to his late father. Then again, in some ways, everything Pat does is a tribute to his dad.
Pat’s father, James “Son” Thomas, was one of the Delta’s most admired blues artists during the last several decades of the 20th century. He recorded numerous times for many labels, and played major festivals both at home and abroad. He was also a respected folk artist whose work continues to draw big bucks in art circles.
Pat has followed his father in both traditions.
Most of the songs in Pat’s repertoire are those he heard his father play. (During that first visit, Pat played these songs on a cheap knockoff of a Gibson Flying V that he plugged into a battered boom box he had rewired as an amplifier. But that’s a story for another day).
Pat’s folk art also strongly recalls that of his dad, fashioning clay into skulls that run the gamut from whimsical to disturbing.
Pet even followed in his father’s footsteps as a gravedigger for a spell.
Since the elder Thomas’ death in 1993, Pat has worked hard to keep his dad’s memory alive through his art and music. And as the performances on this album prove, Pat truly is his father’s son.
- Jeff Konkel/Broke & Hungry Records
released April 1, 2009
Pat Thomas - guitar & vocals
Lee Williams - drums (tracks 1, 3, 7, 10 and 11)
Produced by Jeff Konkel
Recorded and mixed by Bill Abel
Production assistance by Roger Stolle
Mastered by Mark Yoshida, Audiographic Masterworks
Art direction and design by Joey Grisham
Cover photo by Jeff Konkel
Additional photography by Damien Blaylock and Roger Stolle
Recorded Aug. 7 and 8, 2008 at Bill Abel's Big Toe Studio in Duncan, Mississippi.