by Jonny Bones
VANCOUVER – Sounding like the strange offspring of a late night love affair between Elvis Presley and Tom Waits with a penchant for the foot stomping fury of an intoxicated Hank Williams, Vancouver’s Petunia and The Vipers have a crafted a sonic identity that is unquestionably their own. The band’s newest effort Lonesome Heavy and Lonesome captures this unique romance with the past, and pulls it into a very personal present. With this new album, band leader Petunia taps into the heart of his roots to bring us twelve songs of sorrow, isolation, and lost love.
The scope and range of Petunia’s influences differ as much from one album to the next, as they do from song to song. Tracks like “An Anchor” dive deeply into the slow, haunting soundscape that permeates throughout the album. Other songs such as the ‘20s ragtime number “Dying Crapshooters Blues” conjures the memory of big band legend Cab Calloway, if his soul were lost, playing a dice game in limbo. The song “Ugliest Bitterest Coldest Dreary Place I’ve Ever Seen” hits that perfect blend of country twang, and ragtime revival that capturse the band at their best, making it a stand out track and a personal favourite.
While hitting the road in support of the new album, Petunia has taken his Vipers from Vancouver, across the Prairies, along the East Coast and down through Middle America. “St. Louis was pretty cool and a refreshingly un-gentrified place, although seemingly a little dangerous in spots” Petunia says “The USA is kind of fascinating in general once we got off the West Coast – so many extremes. The weird socio-political climate is a real atmosphere at the moment.” Which isn’t to say that the time down there was undesirable, in fact it was quite the opposite. Petunia went on to explain “People are real people everywhere, but as a Canadian it’s kind of an interesting viewpoint… in Canada… it seems so sterile in comparison.”
In between writing and recording the new album, spending time on the road, and blindly wandering through urban landscapes in search of inspiration, Petunia has also found time to work on a series entitled The Musicianer. Directed by Beth Harrington, an independent documentary filmmaker, whose work Petunia had seen at a screening of her most recent film, The Winding Stream – The Carters, The Cashes and The Course Of Country Music. Being blown away by Harrington’s ability to tell the troubled story of the Carter and Cash family and their impact on country music, Petunia decided he needed to meet the creator. “I was lucky enough for her to come to a show in Portland” Petunia explains “We became friends, and I guess ideas might have starting brewing from seeing us onstage.” The web series, which is currently in production for the pilot episode, “revolves around a memory-challenged busker who is trying to come to grips with a growing, alarming realization about his life”. The series has surpassed its fundraising goal on Kickstarter and is slated for release early next year. If the series gains as much success as Harrington’s previous works, we can expect to be seeing much more of Petunia and hearing more of his signature music in the future.
Petunia and the Vipers play the Rickshaw Theatre Saturday Oct. 7americana, beth harrington, country, jug band, lone some heavy and lonesome, Petunia and The Vipers, rag time, roots rock, the musicianer, tom waits