Pete Mroz,
(independent, 2008)

If you took David Gray and put him into a Mixmaster with one part James Taylor and one part Harry Nilsson's voice, you might wind up with something like Pete Mroz's 2008 album Detachment. It's an unassuming soundtrack of melancholy that, when it hits its sweet spot, is capable of delivering some lovely moments and some damned good slow grooves.

Unfortunately those moments don't always fall together or follow one another as well as they should, and the album is cursed overall with ... let's call it an "inertia of ennui" ... that keeps it moving at a pace that would give "leisurely" a bad name.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what you're looking for. It's a great album to relax to, surely. And if you're looking for something to listen to when you're in a blue study and want to reinforce it a little, Mroz is your man. "Come on and climb inside this heartache," he croons in "Get Away," and that's pretty much the overarching sentiment of the entire CD. Sometimes this can be a bit much, as in the lugubrious title track, which expounds on its subject for three-and-a-half minutes that seem more like five. And that is one genuine criticism I have for Mroz -- he really needs to change things up a little more. I like slow ballads, but an entire album of them can be a bit monotonous, to the point where the tunes begin to sound the same toward the end. (For instance, if I wasn't looking at the track list I would have thought "Crazy Maze" and "You Can't Reach Me Now" were essentially the same song.) A couple of faster-paced compositions, judiciously placed, would help to break that up and improve the overall pacing of the CD.

The album has its best stretch of songs in the middle, probably becuase this is where the tempo does get varied up a little. It starts with the very good, countryish mournful-yet-tenacious "Someday Soon." The run extends through the excellent, Latin-influenced, mournful-yet-hopeful "Cinque Terre" and into the darker, mournful-yet-resigned strains of "Hey Lorraine," followed and finished by the Taylor-esque, just plain mournful "Get Away."

I may or may not have mentioned that Pete Mroz writes a lot of mournful songs.

Mroz is a competent songwriter -- not the best I have ever encountered, certainly not terrible -- though there is a sameness (I may have mentioned it once or twice above) of tone here that is not so much variations on a theme as it is just plain Theme with a capital T. Again, some variety would have helped with this.

What saves the CD from becoming a genuine slog is Mroz's voice, which is, simply put, a thing of beauty. He sounds a bit like a young Harry Nilsson, and it really makes the songs (even the ones I didn't care for as much) very pleasant to listen to. He's also a pretty good guitarist, and his backing musicians all seem to have good chemistry with him, especially backing vocalist Robin English. Would that they had slightly stronger material to work with.

In the end, this was a worthwhile listen -- but there is definite room for improvement just the same.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
Jay Whelan

7 May 2011

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