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Published: 2014/10/07
by Brian Robbins

Doug Pettibone
Gone

DPPJ Records

Since his last solo album (2004’s The West Gate ), Doug Pettibone has mostly let his guitars do the talking, collaborating with everyone from John Doe and Ray LaMontagne to Tift Merritt and Marianne Faithfull. The West Gate let us all on in a little secret, however: as talented of a guitar-slinging sideman as Pettibone is, he’s got the goods to take the wheel all on his own. It’s been a bit of a wait (the curse of being in demand), but there’s some new solo Doug Pettibone music to dig into. Gone is its name … and Gone is good.

Things get off on a good foot with “Lovesick” (featuring longtime tunebuddy Lucinda Williams guesting on vocals) – the soundtrack of someone frying their own heart on a very greasy lap steel. Built on a kawooping bass line and nasty drums (Tarus Prodaniuk and Jim Christie respectively), “Lovesick” funks along like a late-night cousin to Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon Of Choice”. (Hell, yeah: haul Christopher Walken in for a video of this one, too.)

While there’s plenty of Pettibone guitar throughout Gone (along with Bill Frisell contributing some six-string sighs to the lovely “Old Friends”), this isn’t a shredfest by any means. The West Gate displayed Pettibone’s talents as a songwriter and vocalist – and Gone is more proof of the same. Many of the guitar moments are the secret sauces that make the dish: the surfy shimmer and Duane Eddyish fills on “California” complement the la-la harmonies and cheese supreme organ lines; the wockaa-wock riffs that drift through “Just Right” add to the tune’s street-corner-at-midnight finger-poppin’ cool; and the slow bronto-stomp groove of “Gone” is the ideal setting for Pettibone to dole out flashes of thunder lizard roar (but never too much).

“Big Love” is the album’s let-it-all-hang-out moment, bouncing and fishtailing like a ’69 Chevelle with bad shocks and the tattered headliner flapping around your skull. (Imagine Ry Cooder at his most reckless and you’ll get a clue as to what to expect.) Pettibone’s guitars are all buzzsaws and meat hooks on “Big Love”: don’t try this at home, kids; this is a master at work. His vocals are just as dirty – and in the best of ways. This man has nothing to lose and he’s going for it. Just stand the hell back.

The album’s most gonzo moment is the closer, a cover of the Jimmy Reed classic “Baby What You Want Me To Do”. Just about the time you get used to the swirling mists and vaporous vocals (“Okay, so they play the blues on Venus, too: that’s cool”), Pettibone comes plink-plinking out of the shadows with a banjo. Uh-huh. Not some blazing slide or string-bending part-your-hair-down-the-middle solo; a dry-as-a-frigging-bone banjo. And it’s perfect.

Get Gone.

*****

Brian Robbins peers through the swirling mists over at www.brian-robbins.com

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