Stop And Smell The Flowers
A website dedicated to bluegrass music questioned if Vancouver’s Petunia was “the savior of country music.” While that might be a bit of hyperbole—does country music really need saving?—you cannot deny that Petunia is a man of considerable talent. His latest LP, Inside of You covers the gamut from country swing, rockabilly, jazz and old time. He even sort of reminds me a bit of Tom Waits, not in voice or in style of music necessarily, but because he is just as idiosyncratic. The comparison is actually apt because, on 2012’s Petunia and the Vipers, Petunia even goes so far to namecheck Waits on one of the songs. What you get here is definitely a concoction that you don’t really hear a lot of these days, music with a fond reverence for the past. “Runaway Freight Train Heart” gets things underway with a boom-chicka-boom guitar that recalls the work of early Johnny Cash. “Forgotten Melody”, meanwhile, feels like a twisted waltz. “Bicycle Song” is a stab at old-timey country, which is reminiscent of Slim Whitman, which, again, is apt because on “The Cricket Song” from the 2012 record, Petunia actually yodels.
If there’s any fundamental flaw to Inside of You, it is that some of the songs are a touch long, and the mid-section of the album is stuffed to the gills with slower material, which brings the frenetic energy of the start of the LP to a screeching halt. Still, Inside of You surprises: there’s a bonus track sung entirely in Spanish that’s an alternate version of the song “Oh My Mother”, which appears earlier on the album. Overall, this disc beguiles and enchants, and it’s a true pleasure to hear songs done in a style of country music that has long gone into the rearview mirror. In a sense, Petunia pays homage to the ghosts of the past, while adding his own clank and scrape to these songs. That makes Petunia a raging force in Canadian music, who steps away from the “Canadian sound” and does things his own way. Petunia is a brave trailblazer, even if he’s simply treading over covered ground. Even if Petunia isn’t country’s “savior”, you have to say that he is certainly unique, and his music is pure joy to those who love hearing true tradition in country and western music.
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