Friday, August 15, 2003
Pierce Pettis at Baldwin’s Station on August 12, 2003
A couple, middle age (our age ), tell us they drove from Pennsylvania to Virginia to hear Pierce Pettis on Saturday, 8-9-03 at the Jammin Java, and then drove down to Maryland to hear him again tonight!. They are at our table. Baldwin’s Station has large tables so we often sit with people we don’t know. The other couple at this table are also Pierce Pettis fans. They are such an adorable pair of young people - he in a blue shirt and maroon bow tie, and she in a flowery summer dress with her hair pinned up by something colorful. Both these couples saw Pierce Pettis and David Wilcox, along with us and a huge number of other people in the large auditorium at Grace Church in Timonium Md last November.
The young couple tells us for “this kind of music” they only see David Wilcox and Pierce Pettis. I tell them there are many more people they make like, and recommend Peter Mayer, who is performing (and co-writing) with David Wilcox (out west somewhere). But Peter will be at the House in the Woods concert nearby, on September 13. I tell them that I sold my Bruce Springsteen ticket to a very eminent singer-songwriter who lives locally, so that I can go hear Peter.
As usual, a couple of trains go by during dinner, and the other couples are curious about this; this is their first time at this venue.
Kate, the Uptown Music volunteer who introduces Pierce Pettis, tells Pierce we may have more trains, so he should have a train song ready. She also mentions we have some local celebrities in the audience. One is a staffer from Dirty Linen, the music magazine, and the other is the singer-songwriter Carey Creed that I saw last Friday night! How good to see her again!
Pierce opens with a new favorite of mine, a Mark Heard song, Another Day in Limbo. A few weeks ago I ordered the Mark Heard 6 cassette pack for $10 from Paste Music (http://www.pastemusic.com/artist/10031) and I have been listening in awe to the this incredible performer. The Paste site says he was 41 when he died and “His 1992 death from heart attack stands as one of the great losses that popular music has suffered”. I found out about Mark Heard from the Bruce Cockburn email list, Humans. And it has been my experience that many Bruce Cockburn fans I know are also Pierce Pettis fans, though the two couples I sit with are not too familiar with Mark Heard, and have never heard of Bruce Cockburn.
Upon Neutral Ground
Then Pierce pulls out his beautiful red 7 string guitar, and does You Move Me. Yes!, he does!
Granddaddy Blew the Whistle – an instrumental written for his granddad Leon who drove trains. I usually am sort of neutral about instrumentals, but Pierce can really make a guitar sing. I can hear the train whistle in the song. I am enchanted, by this song and by all his playing. The evening is much too short.
A new song, Undeserved Favor – “the law of averages should have stopped me long ago”
She Walked Away Just Like Jim Brown – a loss of love song, written from a guy’s point of view. To enhance male interest it includes mention of a football player and auto parts.
Come on Down to the Crying Ground – Pierce tells us he co-wrote this with Tom Kimmel, and as they both grew up in Alabama, they decided to write this with a bluesy Muscle Shoals sound.
BREAK – someone tells me Pierce Pettis has 3 children and one on the way. I buy an album with a child’s picture on the cover, his child I think. And I wonder about this artist - wiry, self-deprecating humor, is this an attempt to downplay pure genius! Does this man know how much his songs mean to people? It must be hard to take it all in.
A Showman’s Life by Jesse Winchester
Another wonderful Mark Heard Song – Rise from the Ruins
With the 7 string red guitar again, Pierce explains he co-wrote this with Dan Cooper who grew up in Missouri, state of many famous outlaws in the past. This song is about an “outlaw” who is a traveling musician, sort of like them My Life of Crime – I love this song, and the rebel, and life-affirming feel to it. We all break other people's rules for us in order to make our lives our own.
My Song of Songs – Pierce explains this romantic song is one his wife likes.
A new song about Leonard Da Vinci. I love this! “A problem for his enemies, a puzzle for his friends”. How many people write a song about this genius? (Ok, Da Vinci’s Notebook took this name, but they are clever in a different way.)
Another new song – Alabama 1959 – mixed memories “all those ghosts”
A Tom Kimmel song – If I Fell from Grace With You
And then finally Pierce sings my request – State of Grace. I heard new things in this song each time I hear it. Maybe since I just read the chapters on Walt Whitman in the book, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property by Lewis Hyde, I think of Pierce’s list of various things “I am rich and poor, black and white.. etc” as similar to poet Walt Whitman’s imagination. Whitman broke new ground in writing poems (he called songs) where he embodied “everyone” – male and female, the common person. Now Pierce Pettis has captured that feeling of being in community with all of us, and pulls us into his “state of grace” so eloquently.
A lullaby written with David Wilcox – “I am more tired than you” – every parent can relate to song from the very first phrase.
Down in the Flood – an old Bob Dylan song – played with harmonica. This song rocks.
God Believes in You – another request, and introduced as reverse theology.
New song – Black Sheep Boy
We’ll Meet Again
This man can play, sing and write, as this enthusiastic crowd well knows. The evening is not long enough, and there are so many artfully sung covers. The covers get a great crowd response. However, we are all left longing for more of Pierce’s songs. We don’t hear “Legacy” or many other audience requests. Next time Pierce…
I now envy the couple who heard Pierce Pettis Saturday at the Jammin Java. I was glad to see Pat Humphries that night, and wouldn’t change that decision, but what difficult choices these are.