Ed Pettersen,
The New Punk Blues of Ed Pettersen
(Split Rock, 2007)

There may be such a thing as "punk blues," and it may even be worth hearing, but this isn't a blues album, much less a punk one. It's decent enough, though.

Once a New Yorker, now a Nashville resident, singer-songwriter Ed Pettersen may cause you to think of what Bruce Springsteen and Richard Thompson would sound like if they were one artist. He is, in any event, one more living testament to the remarkable persistence of the sort of folk-rock that found its voice in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere in the mid- to latter 1960s.

Happily, Pettersen appears to have some appreciation for (at least I judge from, for example, "Jimmy Parker") the older traditional music behind that particular pop genre. Beyond that, I sense that we share a love of the Byrds (or so I infer from the likes of "Been There Before" and "Magic Glasses"). "Chelsea" strikingly exemplifies that noble but under-recognized genre, the New York folk song, other notable instances of which include Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning," Fred Neil's "Bleecker & MacDougal," Steve Forbert's "What Kinda Guy," David Massengill's "My Name Joe" and the Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer in the City." If never flashy, New Punk Blues is unfailingly sturdy.

Pettersen, who produces himself, sets his smart and well-crafted songs to some interestingly varied but always grounded arrangements. I don't adore equally every cut on it, and I take irritated exception to the apparently noncommittal, plague-on-all-houses point of view expressed in "Baghdad." Even so, there can be no question that Pettersen knows what he's doing -- more than can be said for hosts of competing singer-songwriters -- and his music rises well above the merely routine. The best songs here are good indeed. I nominate "$500 Car" for the finest of the lot, not only because it deserves it but because, for some reason I can't quite define, it scares me.

review by
Jerome Clark

7 July 2007

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