A haunting photo inspires a moving and accomplished album.
The power of photography has always amazed and intrigued – the images created by one person and their camera can speak a thousand words. When music is inspired by photography, it’s even more fascinating.
Pittsburgh singer songwriter Dan Petrich has taken a beautiful photograph by Bryan Sansivero of an abandoned house for his new album. Sansivero makes a living photographing abandoned houses and his work is genuinely intriguing. “The house is a ruin, an artefact of a family and a boy. It was once filled with promise but later abandoned to ignorance and fear” – begins the introduction to the album/photo. And what a fantastic artistic building block this photo is – evoking so many emotions for Petrich to immerse himself in.
His previous albums have been described as “…sparse and powerful…” and “…Petrich doles out his narrative with the eye of a documentary filmmaker…”. He’s chosen on this album to surround himself with some of the best local musicians to him in Pittsburgh, where previously he’d preferred minimal outside help. So Alex Heard (drums, percussion, bass, synths, keyboards and production duties); Read Connelly (pedal steel guitar); Tim Good (accordion, keyboards); Anne Celedonia (vocals); and Sam Petrich (trumpet) all bring their abundant skills to make this sound a rich and rounded sonic experience.
The power of music is so strongly felt listening to this album – which he suggests is best listened to through headphones. He explains –“The songs explore the complex bond between parents and their children, mental illness, the rejuvenating potential of music and even the search for the creator.”
We open with ‘Into The Field’ – a lovely blues shuffle with a ‘what we reap is what we sow’ message, encompassed within an intriguing vocal narrative that opens with “The man who fell from outer space…” On ‘Of Fathers and Sons’ Petrich ruminates on the complex relationship between these two family members with some lovely pedal steel playing. Things get rockier on ‘Hi-Fi’ with a wonderful mix of raunch and dreamy loveliness – and it’s a winning mix.
On ‘Monsters’ we have an effective combination of mandolin and accordion, with minimal percussion, creating a haunting mix. More interesting sonic mixtures appear on ‘Wild Times In The West’ where we have a percussive shuffle mixing with distorted guitar and acoustic strummings – another distinctive listen. ‘Pictures’ is a lovely blues shuffle – again having the photo as a perfect addition to the listen. Movingly Petrich opens ‘Hey, Joe’ with a clip of his father leaving a phone message saying ‘’give me a call some time’’ – perfectly introducing another blues tune mixed with a jazz feel for another class tune.
This is a glorious album showcasing Petrich’s incredible musical and song writing talents and is a rich and rewarding experience. Moving and it resonates perfectly. More please.