In their 10 years together, retro roots combo Petunia and the Vipers have become popular on the fest and club circuit on the West Coast and in the UK. It's easy to understand why, as they breathe fresh life into a number of different genres, from old-time country to swing, jazz and blues.
Main man Petunia has an authentic high and lonesome voice, and manages a convincing yodel on some cuts. He's ably abetted by some of Vancouver's very best players, including lap steel player Jimmy Roy, electric guitarist Stephen Mikleva and Jack Garton, whose trumpet, accordion and piano work helps lead the sound into diverse terrain.
Three traditional songs help add to the variety, with "Blues in My Heart" being a standout. The Vipers' take features a strong Dixieland vibe with the horns, while Petunia's vocal and the pedal steel are old-school country. "Urban Landscape" has a more intense and modern-sounding feel to complement sinister lyrics about police reports and death row visits. Elsewhere, "Lonesome" mentions Hank Williams, an obvious reference point, and the title track is suitably mournful.
On "I Don't Have to Go to High School," a cover of a Minimalist Jug Band tune, Petunia's vocals sound contrived, but that's a minor flaw in a strong effort. (Independent)