Pete Bruntnell's a folkie with a rock 'n roller's heart, and the result of those paired aesthetics has produced a succession of releases since 1995 that have fared very well with critics in Europe, the down-under, and, belatedly, here in the U.S. The reason's not hard to discern, as the guy possesses a roots-moderne baseline that appeals like honey to bears, garnished with a little of the spacey side of things interspersed here and there (think Space Opera and such). Then there's the twangy 25 Reasons, where Gram Parsons sat down and discovered he actually liked the Eagles, listening intently until Billy Corgan showed up and demonstrated how to rough things up to capture the outré mellifuity of the electronica set while prog-Gothing matters with Leigh Gregory. After that, Neil Young & Crazy Horse dropped in to open up a Shot from a Spring before fading back to Harvest days with a bit of Josh Rouse inflected. Okay, okay, none of that actually happened (Gram, for one, is, after all, now leading the choir invisible), but you're going to think it did, once you hear Retrospective.
There's a maturity here that recesses itself until it's too late to run away, so if you're looking for brainless entertainment, forget it, as this disc is just what it says it is: a mirror looking backwards on a hand-picked 16-song set of gems from 8 CDs closed out with a 2012 remake of Played Out. If, like me, you're an aficionado of Mickey Newbury's dreamy side, Bruntnell has a LOT of that, it's in almost every song, so he's semi-distantly kindred even to October Project, Innocence Mission, and other ensembles further afield in the rock universe. All of them are somnambulists with tragedian Byronic aspects but, in this gatherum, Pete gathers just the right complement of musicians to sit in the back yard under stars at night, sipping Southern Comfort, everyone wondering what in hell it's all about but satisfied just enough with Earthly existence anyway. Looking at the guy in the photos within the 12-page booklet, you'd think Bruntnell was a member of Nick Cave's backing band, but he'd actually have been right at home opening for Gordon Lightfoot or David Wilcox, even Little River Band, as well as all the aforementioned luminaries. In sum, this is the perfect intro to a guy who deserves a lot more attention than he's getting, even with all the accolades so far.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles