Some time ago, I first heard the voice and songs of folk singer Pierce Pettis through Paste Magazine's pasteradio free mp3 download site. The site has changed now, and I can't find the artists listed whose works I downloaded then: Claire Holley, Ryan Long, Harrod and Funck, Over The Rhine, Innocence Mission. . . . These are not-quite-mainstream artists whose work is cutting-edge lyrically, and who are worth looking up. But the one who most impressed me was Pettis.
I haven't had the chance to hear much of his music. For one thing, the local Wal-Mart just doesn't carry a lot of his kind of thing, the lyrical folk music that oddballs like me love but that doesn't sell gold. For another, I just don't have the spare $20 to grab any album I like every few weeks. Then I found Pandora, an internet music site that lets the user set up personal radio stations based on specific artists. Now I have Pandora stations featuring Steve Delopoulos (of Burlap to Cashmere), Phil Keaggy, Todd Agnew, Daniel Amos, Glenn Kaiser, and. . . Pierce Pettis (Can't wait to add some Maggie Becker into the mix).
Because Pandora doesn't stream the whole album at one time (instead it streams the featured artist and others like him), I haven't heard all of Pettis' songs from his album Making Light of It. But there are two songs I'd downloaded from Paste: "Miriam" and "Absalom, Absalom." If you follow the link to the album, you can hear clips from these songs and the rest of the album. If you follow the Pandora link, you can register and set up your own stations, including (I hope) a Pierce Pettis station for your own.
Here's what captured me about Pettis: He's the perfect mix of voice, instrument, and lyric. He weaves faith into his songs without being preachy; he shares deep sentiment in plain, simple words; he sings real life. "Miriam" is a good example of what he can do with a song: Taking someone we think we know (the virgin Mary) and showing her for who she really is (Miriam, a Jewish girl). This is like good exegesis in a song: You get people to look deeper than they have to find what they've skipped over and missed because "we already know that one."
I hope to get the chance to hear more of Pettis, maybe even to buy a whole album (or you could send me one this Christmas. . .). In the meantime, check his music out for yourself. For that matter, check out the other artists I mentioned. You'll know what I like, and you'll find (I hope) new and intriguing music.