Music, Music

New Blues Anyone? Review of Stephen Dale Petit – The BBC Sessions

Stephen Dale Petit - The BBC SessionsThis week I received a treasure through the post – the Stephen Dale Petit (“SDP”) CD titled “The BBC Sessions.” As I do with any new album, I saved the first listen for the car. When I listen to music in my car it is at the forefront of my attention (just after driving safely – of course) while at home it tends to fall to the background. I loved the CD and I was soon singing and tapping along (and so were my kids!).

SDP is an American-born blues singer/songwriter/guitarist and this album is in the modern blues style. Despite his California roots, he is a pioneer and champion of the New Blues Revolution in the UK, where he has resided since the mid-80’s. SDP has performed with many of the blues greats, including B.B. King and Eric Clapton and he also famously busked in the London Underground.

The album “The BBC Sessions” comprises 11 musical tracks arranged in a sampling of 3 different BBC sessions from 2007 and 2009. There is a 12th track on the album consisting of a lengthy (nearly 16 minute) interview with SDP by Bob Harris. This interview outlines the musical life story of SDP and the history of the New Blues Revolution and was surprisingly interesting and informative.

My favorite session showcased on the album is the first and the oldest – the 2007 session. It starts with a breezy performance of “Steppin’ Out”, which is an amazing instrumental blues guitar showcase. My absolute favorite track of the 2007 session is Petit’s own “7 Cent Cotton” – an angry song with a rock feel….because who doesn’t love an angry song with a rock feel?

The middle session is from 2009 with special guest Mick Taylor, a former Rolling Stone. This session opens with the traditional “Goin’ Away Baby”. While I love the tune, I find some of the lyrics a bit unbelievable from SDP. The session continues with the slow, lengthy, rendition of “Love in Vain” that flaunts the guitar skills of SDP and Mick Taylor. This session ends with an extremely long (more than 9 minutes long!) version of “A Better Answer”. I found this track to be self-indulgent – the type of track where the musicians get lost exploring artistic possibilities and the listeners get bored. I much prefer the acoustic version of this song at the end of the album.

The last session showcases 3 original SDP songs. The tuneful “My Friend Bob” is a poetic story-telling song with a Bob Dylan feel and a blues-y harmonica solo. I did not, however, love the track “It’s All Good” with it’s initial growly vocals and hasty buildup to a chorus that is vaguely reminiscent of the Rolling Stones “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. The music portion of the album ends with an acoustic version of “A Better Answer”, which is a big hit in our household with it’s fun tempo changes and raw vocals.

All in all this was an enjoyable CD and I will definitely add it to my regular rotation. My only complaint about the album addresses more structure than content. There are short interviews with SDP interspersed between some of the songs. I find that this breaks the flow of the music; I would prefer that the interview material be saved for the beginning or the end of the album. There is a long interview at the end of the album; the other interview “snippets” are not necessary.

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