Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gimme some A-D-P

Hey folks,

I met this squinting gentleman at Death by Audio this summer, and wrote a 'lil review of the collection of songs he gave to me. C'est ici:

Some albums take a long time to like, and others enter your ears like a guest you never knew you were waiting to receive. Stick to the Shadows, the forthcoming disc of sun-kissed Americana that songwriter Andy Dale Petty gave me at Death by Audio this past summer, is one of the latter. After pressing play, an electric guitar breaks like dawn over grassy hills, and then an acoustic complement picks a careful path across the landscape. You might not forget where you are when you hear it first.

After the opener, which sounds like a hushed counterpoint to Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline Rag,” a harmonica and a dancing mandolin inject a sense of regret into the picture. “I’ll tell myself that you’re movin’ this way,” Petty sings in the elementally titled “making a point with light,” but he might just be hoping—as the possibility of loss hovers above the notes, the line “Life is the morning, and long is the day,” carries a sweet ambiguity. A hint of R.E.M.’s “Man on the Moon” tinges the opening of “lost caves,” a narrative of solitude after a failed connection, and Petty’s guitar continues to build a wheelwork of country licks and textures. During a second instrumental, an acoustic melody grows out of a bog of bass notes like a green shoot. It’s a mess of riches.

The album continues with the rollicking “stick to the shadows,” in which Petty uses a ratchet to lend a festive, corny air to a friend’s promised return: “I’m coming home, and you will see, that I’m so young and I’m so free, and there’s nobody fooling me,” he sings, triumphantly. After an interlude composed of bits of spoken word and high-pitched violin, a bright-toned solo highlights “death wail,” the record’s one conventional pop number, and in “coming home,” a banjo traverses the same hills that the guitar maps in the album’s opener, with a flute rising above a faint analog synth before the fade. “Through deserts and woods, there is much that is good, but the world is hard to please,” Petty later sings, sparely evoking the emotional ruts in his travels. His voice has an amber tone and an occasional nasal edge, and it shares equal space with the other instruments in the mix.

If the album ended here, Petty’s work would still be outstanding. But distinctive songs keep emerging near the end of the record. “falling to earth” features a lyric that wrestles with mortality by modifying the meaning of the idiom “no matter,” and it also contains a hopeful chorus melody that stuns like a second dawn. In “for their blood,” lush pedal steel quivers like the moon in a country pond, expressing mysterious longing for journeys not yet taken, and a measure of weariness from ones already made. The album ends with “psychic surgery,” a tune with a ruddy, rested delivery that shines like a candle in a dark clearing. Based in Huntsville, Alabama, Petty hopes to release the record this winter, and he also wants to stop in New York during a fall tour. Until then, pay him a visit on his MySpace page.

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