This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 8/01
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Traipsing down a very human and sometimes personal Via Dolorosa, Pierce Pettis' musical 'stations of the cross' provides an involving examination into faith, truth, love, forgiveness, freedom, and resurrection. Veering between the straightforward and the metaphorical in this, his latest release, he coats a series of moments and passages in life with a numinous and inclusive subtext. In what could easily become a very spiritually and geographically parochial set of songs in lesser hands, Pettis' sweet chariot instead travels a very universal road. As he engagingly starts out in the first verse of the joyful and rollicking opening cut "Rise From The Ruins:"
"There ain't nobody asks to be bornIn the title song, "State Of Grace," he continues the theme:
There ain't nobody wishes to die
everybody whiles away the interim time
sworn to rise from the ruins by and by..."
"...Well I'm up and downSet amidst antebellum mansions, Spanish moss and a sentry statue guarding a Confederate cemetary from a firefly fuselage, the most moving offering, "Georgia Moon," is of a young love ended but a worthwhile lesson learned:
And I'm left and right
rich and poor
black and white
I am not alone
I am not ashamed
to make my home
in a state of grace..."
"...now your memory still shines on meLamenting being everywhere but where he wants to or should be, Pettis, in "Long Way Back Home," sings:
part heaven and part hell
oh to reach for the roses, we
must feel the thorns as well..."
Co-written with Tim O'Brien, "A Mountaineer Is Always Free" is a joyous declaration juxtaposed with the sorrow of "Long Way Back Home." Pettis sings of an ill-prepared immigrant landing in this country and, through opportunity and hard work, making his first real home:"...Sometimes the only difference
'tween a pilgrim
And a prodigal son
is just the difference
'tween the dream you begin
and the thing you become..."
"...No kings or landlordsThis song should have been a no-brainer for the "Songcatcher" soundtrack.
to treat us like beggars and thieves
there's no one but God here to fear
or to look down on me
no more a wanderer
no more a refugee
for a mountaineer is always free..."
Pettis closes with a personal anthem "I've Got A Hope." He sings:
"...Time, it is turningWas it Thoreau who said an unexamined life is not worth living? Pettis obviously seconds him, and he's a much better singer.
like a plow in the field
it roots up the earth
and what's hidden is revealed
sewing the future
while the past, it is sealed
I've got a hope
that is not in this world..."
Pettis, on vocals, guitar and harmonica, is supported by Lynn Williams on drums and percussion; Garry West on bass; Tim O'Brien on bouzouki, mandolin and harmony vocal; Stuart Duncan on fiddle and octave violin; Colin Linden on electric guitar and electric resophonic guitar; Clive Gregson on Hammond B3, electric guitar and mando-guitar; John R. Burr on piano and electric piano; Alison Brown on banjo; Claire Lynch, Gordon Kennedy and Jonnell Mosser on harmony vocals.
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