Jimmy Peterson beautifully mixes introspection and inspiration on his new release "Translation blues."
Minneapolis - January 2019 - singer-songwriter Jimmy Peterson has lived in Minneapolis for more than 25 years and his new album "Translation blues" (7-song ep on Pony records) is a starkly-compelling commentary on the changes he's seen in that time.
"It's a nostalgic collection of songs that deals with a bit of the heartache and disillusionment of growing older in a world changing so rapidly that it seems almost unfamiliar," Peterson says. "The songs are personal, and there's a sense of retrospect. After playing music for decades you start thinking very differently about things in terms of what you really want to do creatively. I've always been interested in singer-songwriter stuff. It's honest enough to allow for more of a feel and nuance. The type of writing, which to me, is somehow both intimate and incidental."
Translation blues marks the first time Peterson has made a record under his own name and it's a bit of a return to the acoustic influences and style that marked the start of his career. He first appeared on the local Minneapolis scene in the late '90s as one of the pair of singer-guitarists in the alt-country band Bellwether, which gained an enthusiastic following and released five albums into the early 2000s. He would go on to create more groups (missing numbers, 757s) and other projects that would result in another six albums.
Upon recording the new album, Peterson called on the help of some trusted old friends including former Bellwether bandmates Mickey Wirtz and Eric Luoma, as well as pedal steel great Joe Savage. He also called on longtime friend Mark Stockert, owner-operator of Underwood recording studio in Minneapolis, to engineer the record. The album was later mixed at Tempermill studio in Detroit by Dave Feeny, known for his work with Jack White and as a backing performer on Loretta Lynn's Grammy winning "Van Lear Rose."
At the heart of "Translation blues" there's a real sentimentality in the lyrics, while the vibe of the music balances out somewhere between pop and alt-country. There's a good share of vocal harmonies, and of course the usual compliment of slow-burning elements like harmonica and pedal steel, all set against a dreamy rhythmic backdrop.
About the songs
Here's how Peterson describes a few of the tracks;
"Closer" - this song is about coming to know yourself and the people you're close to over a long period of time. It's also about realizing the type of full circle evolution an artist can go through. It was intentionally aimed at sounding like a Bellwether song for that reason. I still really miss everything about that.
"Good luck" - has a pop vibe and plays to the idea of the journey (be it good or bad) -as the destination. The circumstances surrounding musicians and artists of any kind can be so challenging at times, that it borders on the surreal. I was going for a real vintage sounding thing with a big dose of melancholy. A kind of honky-tonk impressionism, like some sad jukebox in an old bar.
"Northern town" - is it a song about getting older in a town you're not necessarily still in love with? Maybe seeing everything about your town change over time, in ways you couldn't have imagined. Lost venues, vanishing scenes and more than a couple contemporaries who've given up on music.