P.J. Pacifico – The Live EP (2012)

P.J. Pacifico’s voice, like a honeysuckle breeze, is inviting, deeply pastoral, almost hypnotizing. Not for nothing, it seems, do two of the first three songs here focus so completely on “home.” But listen more closely, and it becomes clear that The Live EP isn’t filled with songs of hearth and reunion, so much as wary consideration: For every moment of sunny optimism, there follows at least one of cloud-bursting realism.

At its best, this album — romantic, but worldly about love, too — sounds like one of those frayed, blank-faced, black-and-white photographs of old: filled with seminal moments that today might have included a wink or goof-ball pair of rabbit ears but instead back then betrayed the harder truths of life: Their smiles weren’t given away unearned. They knew the costs, or admitted them more freely, anyway.

That’s what I like about Pacifico’s music, too. And yet … he doesn’t look as certain as they always did. He may sound like James Taylor, but he writes like Paul Simon — stubbornly hopeful but pulling absolutely no punches, and sometimes filled with doubt.

In this way, across seven songs recorded live with just a guitar in the warm embrace of a church backroom in Connecticut, Pacifico evades time — seeming to retain an air of ageless simplicity, even while sounding completely fresh and modern. His playing, and his lyrics, sound less about careful reflection than direct deed — like something happening in real time, with all of the passion and the mistakes that come with that.

What you hear, with everything stripped away, is someone still looking, still searching. For all of the comfort this young man’s music, at first blush, might convey, it turns out that very little about it is settled. For all that talk of home, Pacifico isn’t one for comfy domesticity. He’s got too many questions.

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‘The Live EP’ includes “I’m Home” and “The Girl from Montreal,” from 2009′s ‘Always and Everywhere’; “Home with Me,” “Lakeshore Drive,” “Targets” and “As Soon as I Can” from 2011′s ‘Outlet’; and “Something Nobody Knows,” from a forthcoming 2012 P.J. Pacifico release. You can purchase ‘The Life EP’ through Viper Records.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.