Pierce Pettis is truly a songwriter's songwriter. He has dedicated himself to serious music making for some thirty years. Hailing from Alabama, he became a staff writer for PolyGram Publishing in Nashville. Joan Baez covered one of his songs as did Dar Williams and Garth Brooks. Until now, he has remained just under the radar as a popular solo performer. His January, 2009 release, That Kind of Love, may change all that.
The recording is expertly produced by Garry West, one of the co-owners of Compass Records. He surrounds each of Pettis' songs with support from some of Nashville's finest musicians, among them: Stuart Duncan (on fiddle and banjo), Phil Madeira (on Hammond B3 and accordion), Kenny Malone (on drums and percussion) and Garry West himself (on electric bass).
The opening track, Nothing but the Wind, grabs you right from the start. It was written by the late Mark Heard, whom Pettis credits as a hero both as a songwriter and a man. It's got Phil Madeira on Hammond, Rob McNelley on slide guitar and Stuart Duncan on fiddle. But most of all, the melody takes hold, and you go along for a wonderful ride.
I Am Nothing is simply put, a great, great song. It is about a singer/songwriter, Don Dunaway, whom Pettis says "has labored in obscurity at a small tourist bar in Florida for over 30 years." It's got a powerful beat and even more powerful lyrics:
I am nothing
Andrea Zonn contributes perfect vocal harmony, and Pettis accompanies himself on guitar.
Farewell is the kind of song every songwriter would like to call his/her own. It tells the story of a maternal ancestor of Pettis' who was given away in marriage at the age of sixteen, to a much older man. She travels from her native Rhode Island, down to Alabama, far from the sea. Pettis has captured the melancholy, the hope and the fear. He has also captured the tenderness he feels for the great, great, great grandmother he only knows through family lore. Here is her story.
The title tune, That Kind of Love, is moving, tender and true. Both the melody and the lyrics stop you in your tracks. For a moment you forget about the harsh realities of the outside world. Only a truly great song and an even greater songwriter can do that.
If records were novels, That Kind of Love would be the kind of absorbing read that makes it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Instead we have an album full of story songs intelligently written, with beautiful melodies. Each tune reaches deep into the heart. The music of Pierce Pettis is timeless. That Kind of Love should be in every music lover's collection. It is simply that good.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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