Petunia returns to the East Coast with a new album that affirms his place as one of Canada’s greatest and least known songwriters.
It seems like forever since Petunia was a mainstay on the East Coast circuit. In fact, it’s been close to ten years since he once called Fredericton home and performed weekly at The Lunar Rogue Pub. But while his downtown residency is now just a pleasant memory, the Quebec-born yodeling cowboy continues to make an annual trek east each year from his home on the West Coast, playing bars, house parties and backwoods juke joints from Caraquet to Halifax and all points in between.
This week the traveling troubadour returns along with his long-time touring companion, The Minimalist Jug Band, for a string of dates beginning in Petit Rocher, NB at Coeur de L’Artichaud on August 29 before snaking through parts of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and back to New Brunswick wrapping up with a show in Fredericton on September 7 at the Capital Complex.
Although many of us on the East Coast hold fond memories of the time when we called Petunia one of our own, the West Coast has proven to be the perfect incubator for his eclectic mix of influences and creative pursuits. After relocating to the opposite end of the country shortly after the release of Petunia & The Loons (Forward Music Group 2007), Petunia quickly assembled The Vipers, an all-star backing band made up of some of Vancouver’s most storied musicians from country and rockabilly lineage, and together have been making waves up and down the West Coast between Vancouver and Los Angeles ever since.
In May, Petunia and The Vipers released their third album, Dead Bird on the Highway, a recording that perfectly encompasses the vast and unbounded melting pot of musical influences that has always been at the heart of Petunia’s creative muse. If you’re at all familiar with his immense back catalog of solo and band releases (totaling more than ten official recordings, scattered demos and live albums), you’ve most likely heard Petunia’s music described as being gypsy, folk, old time, ragtime, jazz, rockabilly, roots rock, Cajun, Acadian, Americana, and world music, and strangely enough, they’re all accurate to some degree.
Dead Bird on the Highway follows two earlier releases with The Vipers, Petunia and The Vipers (2012) and Inside of You (2014), and finds Petunia continuing on his well-established trajectory of unpredictability and eclecticism with even greater focus, if that makes any sense at all. Across fourteen tracks that draw inspiration from all folk-rooted genres the world over, Petunia and his band take us on a hotrod wagon ride through new compositions and time tested originals while also giving a fresh interpretation to a select group of covers.
From the opening track, Blue Yodel Blues, a song he has been part of his catalog for well over a decade, through newer material like the haunting Death Himself and the Bob Wills inspired Gonna Put On My Suit, Petunia affirms his place as one of Canada’s greatest and least known songwriters. And he’s also got a knack for arranging songs, playfully layering rhythms across his highly skilled ensemble of Stephen Nikleva (guitar), Jimmy Roy (lap steel), Patrick Metzger (bass) and Paul Townsend (drums). On Dead Bird On The Highway, there are no wasted notes or filler melodic phrases. It’s a highly calculated and expertly executed album yet somehow delivered with all the ease of a Saturday night kitchen party.
Don’t miss your chance to catch Petunia on tour this fall with The Minimalist Jug Band. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll move your feet, you might even get a little uncomfortable, but by the time the show’s over you’ll wish this wasn’t simply a once-a-year occasion. Not to be missed.
- Aug 29 | Petit Rocher, NB | Coeur d’Artichaud
- Aug 30 | Antigonish, NS | Townehouse Brewpub
- Aug 31 | Halifax, NS | The Company House (Petunia and the Loons)
- Sept 1 | Hunt’s Point, NS
- Sept 2 | Moncton, NB | Plan B
- Sept 3 | Caraquet, NB | Aux Grains de Folies
- Sept 4 | Victoria-by-the-Sea, PEI | The Chocolate Factory
- Sept 7 | Fredericton, NB | The Capitol (EARLY SHOW)
- Sept 8 | Quebec City, QUE | Foubar
- Sept 9 | Montreal, QUE | Au Divan Orange
And check out this killer video for Mercy that won Best Music Video at the 2016 Alberta Film & Television Awards.