Hear It First: Pierce Pettis, 'Father's Son'

by Kim Ruehl (@kimruehl), Folk Alley

Pierce Pettis has made a long career out of music that simmers just below the surface, releasing albums that are beloved by fellow songwriters for their sheer craftsmanship. His latest, Father’s Son (due Jan. 18 on Compass Records) is no exception.

Well beyond its crack lyricism and intuitive arrangements, Father’s Son is populated by some truly great players. Among them, guitarist Doug Lancio (Patty Griffin), fiddler Andrea Zonn (James Taylor), and vocals from Ruth Moody (The Wailin’ Jennys). Together, the band backs Pettis’s songs in a way that is artfully subtle and supportive, always in service to the song rather than showing off their own chops. This is in part thanks to producer Garry West, but is also a testament to how well Pettis writes a song.

The title track, which comes in at number six here, presents a collection of fatherly advice about persistence and hope. Its lyrics implore the person to whom the song is addressed (His son? His self? The listener?) that he is part of a line of men who have striven to surmount the obstacles placed in front of them. Citing the dubious nature of a father’s legacy (“your father’s pride, your father’s shame”) the song draws no conclusions, only presenting a case about what it means to carry such a legacy forward.

Indeed, the themes that pervade the song “Father’s Son” make the phrase a fitting title for an album that explores one man’s identity, from childhood to the present. It reframes the question of what it means to “be a man” by exploring the many phases of growth and evolution one goes through in life.

Pettis looks back on a “beautiful time” when he was impacted by a Jewish neighbor as a boy. He looks around him at the present day, recognizing “I’ve got a 50/50 chance that things will go my way.” Even as he looks ahead to his own mortality and the pain that comes with reckoning with death, Pettis sings, “There’s more than all the falling down and the getting up again.”

The sheer optimism of it all is refreshing in these times when optimism can seem in such short supply. But then, that is the role of art: to open our eyes to a perspective that might otherwise seem unavailable to us. And, when it comes to empathic story-songwriting, Pierce Pettis is one of the best.

“Let me do some good here while I can,” he sings in the final song, “Instrument.” Considering the optimistic outlook Father’s Son presents, he has achieved this goal.

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Father's Son is available for pre-order now HERE.

Upcoming shows:

Sat, Jan 12 Ponte Vedra Beach, FL - Ponte Vedra Concert Hall (Marica Ball opener)

Sun, Jan 20 Durham, NC - Birdland NC

Fri, Feb 1 Santa Rosa Beach, FL - St. Rita’s Catholic Church

Sat, Feb 2 Panama City Beach, FL - St. Helen State Park

Sun, Feb 3 Youngstown, FL - Americana Cafe Sundays at Maggie's Musical Farm

Fri, Feb 8 Waco, TX - Partnership for Psychological and Spiritual Care Fundraiser

Sat, Feb 9 Houston, TX - 2nd Saturday Concerts

Wed, Feb 13 Baton Rouge, LA - Dyson House (Danny Burns opener)

Fri, Feb 15 Dallas, TX - Poor David’s --w/keyboardist, David Webb

Sat, Feb 16 Fayetteville, AR - Cove Concerts

Thurs, Mar 7 Nashville, TN - Bluebird Cafe w/Rayvon Pettis & the Big Dumb

Fri, May 10 Mentone, AL - Mentone House Concerts

Thu, May 16 Buffalo, NY - Nickel City Sessions

Fri, May 24 Rochester, NY - Lake Effect House Concerts

Sat, Nov 16 Austin, TX - Acoustical Cafe --w/keyboardist, David Webb

Sat, Nov 23 Edom, TX - The Old Firehouse

Sun, Nov 24 Bonham, TX - Harmony House Concerts

more tour dates

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