by Bea Willis
Pete’s Posse is led by Pete Sutherland, a well-known multi-instrumentalist and vocalist based in Vermont. The posse is back with fellow multi-instrumentalist Oliver Scanlon and Tristan Henderson creating a new release, The Conversation. Featuring fifteen songs that incorporate Irish fiddle tunes, traditional melodies and originals that have a more modern hue to them. The styles span folk, bluegrass and country music, but never loses sight of the real point, which is great music!
“The Brocca Set” opens the set with Henderson playing colorful guitar voicings and Sutherland and Scanlon playing a violin duet that sounds like someone dropped a couple pages from a Bartók violin quartet on the studio flour and they decided to play it! Well, seriously, it is a wonderful opening and leads to a clear collection of traditional Irish fiddle tunes combined with a modern composition from well-known contemporary fiddler Liz Carroll. Staying with the two fiddles and guitar instrumentation for the duration of the song, each melody is given its just due, Scanlon and Sutherland’s solos are a treat to listen to and Henderson’s guitar accompaniment is exciting and fills a lot of space.
Everyone in Pete’s Posse are multi-instrumentalists, singers and songwriters. “The Vermont Set” is a good example of how within one song a member will switch from violin to mandolin to give a different orchestrated color. Presented in a medium-tempo for the first portion of the song and for the solos, this creative group then plays it at an up-tempo pace for an effective ending. The joining of three traditional melodies to form the set is a wonderful idea, and covers a lot of musical ground and heritage all within one selection.
“Be The Light” is a Henderson original that fits in beautifully with the rest of the pieces and styles. He plays the melody on guitar and his accents are very enjoyable and clear as he plays the single note melody. The three form a three-part counterpoint that is creative and musical. The vocals have positive lyrics and the trio demonstrates that not only can they play outstanding three-part counterpoint, but can sing three-part harmonies just a well!
“Reel du Grandpère” finds Sutherland on piano, Henderson on guitar and Scanlon on violin and foot percussion. A series of four traditional melodies, the three once again show their genius, by making their trio sound like a whole lot more voices are involved, its magic. Henderson and Scanlon take turns playing melodies and then play in harmony. The climbing guitar figure at the ending is very nice and the rhythmic hits add excitement.
Pete’s Posse offers twin fiddles in tight, uninhibited harmony over high-powered guitar and pounding footwork with mandolin, clawhammer banjo, jawharp and rich piano while adding their voices to the mix with in tune harmonies. Songs and tunes, old and new, lyrical and driving: that’s the multi-generational heart and mind of Pete’s Posse’s new release, The Conversation.
Tracks to sample first: “The Brocca Set,” “The Vermont Set,” “Be The Light” and “Reel du Grandpère.” The song to take a chance on is “Sitck Season Suite.”