Monday, 17 October 2011

Dan Pettitt: The Machine

Image © Daniel Pettitt

The Machine
Daniel Pettitt

The latest release by the talented and prolific singer/songwriter Daniel Pettitt presents 10 new songs exploring the light and shade of life.

‘This album is my relationship with the great unknown, both the physical and material with the esoteric and expanse of silence above us.’

True to his word, all of the songs venture into unexplored realms, digging deeply below the surface to unearth icebergs from the past, concerns about the present and hopes (and fears) for the future.

Songwriters must find themselves on the horns of many dilemmas when it comes to revealing their inner selves. How much should one show? Typically, Dan is up to the challenge and he pulls absolutely no punches on The Machine.

Everything Has Meaning is a strong opener, lifted at key moments by the backing vocals of Sara Dennis (one of three tracks to which Sara contributes).

The lyrics set the scene for the rest of the CD; probing, questioning and challenging.

'Don’t keep secrets,
You can tell that to anyone,
Just look at my face
Do you think I’m that strong?
I can feel my soul race,
It’s like love’s blood
Everything is flowin’ so freely through my heart, I just can’t give up’

It's one of the most optimistic of the songs on The Machine, a stance starkly contrasted by the very next number.

Schizophrenic is a very unusual track, with eerie backing music and an inspired use of disjointed voices.

'I’m schizophrenic, I live in a dream,
It’s all academic, it feels like a machine,
I’ve spent my whole life inside a vision
No one can reach me,
Nothing can find me…'

It's a dark, disturbing song, in parts strangely reminiscent of some of Edgar Allen Poe's poems:

'All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream...'

A Dream Within a Dream

Force of Nature is a return to a more straight forward composition, running at a faster tempo than most on the CD.

'I wanna be saved, I don’t wanna be left out in the cold…
But there’s something inside and it feels kind of true,
Some kind of destiny and we’re gonna make it through…'

It's a song of optimism and a hope for a better future.

Image © Daniel Pettitt

The Woman and the Girl changes the tempo again to produce a slow-burning ballad. It's quite a conventional song in contrast to the darker material on display.

'She awoke, she was lost, she always felt the cost…'

Going Down to the Valley evokes semi-religious overtones (another recurring theme of the CD). Belief isn't necessarily the important point; rather, it's the questioning that counts.

'Goin’ down to the valley,
I’m gonna shed my dreams,
I’m gonna raise Heaven,
I’m gonna ask what I have seen…'

Life is a Dream is a fast, up-tempo song showing the artist coming to terms with various issues and essentially clearing the decks before the next spring forward.

'I once said I’d make it to the top,
But now all I wanna do is escape…'

The optimism is kept in check for the next number, Down, which is virtually a companion piece to Schizophrenic. Cleverly - and thematically - holding off the first line until 33 seconds into the song emphasises the subject matter. Despite the outwardly negative emotional stance of the lyrics, there are occasional flashes of a brighter tomorrow.

'They tell me I’m full of excuses and nothing is wrong,
I’m told I’m just being foolish and it don’t last long,
I know there are worse things and I should move along,
I’ve gotta buck up my ideas, gotta sing another song…'

Image © Daniel Pettitt

Heaven and Hell sees Dan re-enter the religious world, or at least to question its existence.

I live in a Godless land,
Where religion stands accused…
Is there someone out there?
Is there something out there?

The theme loosely extends to the next song, The Talisman, which is a more straightforward composition.

'There will be no place left for you or I,
But the Talisman is on high...'

The Marine by the Sea brings The Machine to a close with a lengthy folk ballad. At ten minutes it's probably a shade too long, but typically for Dan the lyrics continue to pour out of him at an incredible rate, especially when he is writing autobiographically.

'I was born in a time of wonder, the summer of love had come and gone,
My father worked a life of hardship, my mother made up for what was wrong…'

The themes explored earlier on the CD are visited again in this very personal song.

'We were once children of the Earth in a dreamlike life,
I’m at The Marine by the sea, we’re all unravelled in time…'

The Machine will challenge the listener's thoughts, feelings and expectations. It is a brave move for a writer (in any genre) to present their work with such honesty. All in all, it represents a deep and impressive body of work.

Image © Daniel Pettitt
All quoted lyrics © Daniel Pettitt

Keep up to date with Dan's music and tour dates over at his official website.

My interview with Dan is still available:

My review of Dan's book can be found here.

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