The first time you hear Australian singer-songwriter, Pasko, you’ll probably think your ears are playing tricks on you. Surely, you reckon, this has to be a new record by some legendary soul singer trying his hand at a 21st Century blend of Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, Pop & Showtime tunes. I reckon if you see Pasko live, and close your eyes, it’s the same reaction. But there’s a whole lot more to the pyrotechnical word-slinger than those retro-indebted shadows. Here’s a singer who was spending his days working the pub scene in Sydney and writing songs in his head and heart, before starting a collaboration with Ray Goodwin, (The original guitarist from the 70-80s Aussie rock band Dragon). Smitten with each other after a meeting in Surry Hills discussing great songwriting teams, they decided to work together on what would eventually become Pasko’s latest album – “The Lonesome Traveller”.
Pasko, who has also performed at the Sydney Opera House, on TV & Radio, as well as cruise ships, and writing music for ﬁlm, gathered the help of various talents like Anatoli Torginski on cello, wordsmiths Mark Brettel & Justin Jones, Charlie McMahon & Michael Edwards on Didj and Clarinet, Sean Carey who mixed and co-produced the album, as well as Hazel Schravemade who took care of cover art on “The Lonesome Traveller”.
Nostalgic yet ultimately fresh and current the songs on this album dig into contrasting soundscapes and diverse musical eras, as Pasko delivers music, words and a voice that can only be described as timeless, and I say that with all the weight that statement carries. For Pasko’s voice would be extraordinarily notable regardless of if it was heard in the 50’s,60’s or 70’s, and any other era that brings us up to today.
‘Step by Step’ has a bright, big band rhythm and blues feel, sounding as though especially crafted to accompany the singer on a Las Vegas stage, meanwhile ‘Highway Man’ is an upbeat ode to the journey of life with a pop-rock bent.
Similarly, ‘Stars Live On’ is a tender offering that also carries an emotive lyrical theme as well as a melodic piano that tinkers harmoniously alongside those silky vocals and melancholy cello lines, while ‘Thunder Clouds’ brings a chance to stabilize the tempo and dabble with a storytelling Americana-influenced groove filled with horns and harmonies.
The title track, ‘Lonesome Traveller’ is an all-embracing mood piece where the strings are nothing less than mesmerizing playing off Pasko’s slow galloping voice. Again and again, Pasko repeats the trick all great soul singers have of taking you with him on the journey, something he accomplishes without reserve on the jazzy ‘Temple of Stone’, one of the best songs on the entire recording.
On ‘No Mind Games’, Pasko effortlessly finds his way to the heart of the piano-driven groove, as if almost wanting to show that the art of writing and performing infectious songs is the easiest thing in the world to do. ‘Last Breath’ brings the recording to its close – a slow-burning composition that showcases a more stripped back songwriting virtuosity.
Helmed by a soft acoustic piano and sparse instrumental skitters that play alongside the track’s heartfelt vocal yearning and Pasko’s multi-textural voice, it provides a fitting conclusion to a hugely accomplished album.