There are records that absolutely blow you away and knock your socks off from the git go, and there are records that may take several listens before you recognize their brilliance. And then there are those records that from the first note just sound as comfortable as a pair of worn old blue jeans. Somewhere South Of Here is one of those comfortable records. Ed Pettersen is a singer-songwriter out of New York City, and with his able backing band, he’s crafted an easygoing sound that’s country-rock at heart. with enough musical bits and pieces thrown in — from gospel to grunge — to keep the whole thing interesting.
Pettersen’s 1995 release Desperate Times showed him to be a talented songwriter and a soulful vocalist, but the record lacked musical focus. The focus is supplied here by the High Line Riders, a top-flight musical outfit anchored by the rock-solid drumming of Pete Abbott. Abbott is also the drummer for funksters Average White Band, so he knows a thing or two about laying down a rhythmic foundation. All the band members are music professionals, but this is no bunch of studio hired guns: They’ve been playing together as a band for over a year and it’s reflected in tightness of the playing.
Pettersen is a man in love and it shows in his joyous vocals on rockers “What A Little Love Can Do” and “DWIOU”, but this record is not all sweetness and light. “Run Away” is a grim tale of the sad end of a couple of drug smugglers. “Changing Faces”, written for an independent film of the same name, is a Nirvanaesque scorcher about hate crime written from the point of view of the perpetrator. The real highlight is the title track, co-written by Pettersen and sometime collaborator Scott Kempner (formerly of the Del Lords). It’s easy to get caught up in the soaring guitars and pop hook melodies and not realize that the singer is wrestling with thoughts of suicide.
Of course, you can enjoy this record for the music alone without contemplating the lyrics. Just like those blue jeans, Somewhere South Of Here stands up to extended wear.