Buzz: Genesis via Genesee: Local artist Ted Pitney embarks on his solo career
"I thought I was done with music," folk rocker Ted Pitney says, remembering his attitude and outlook after leaving his role as the guitarist for widely acclaimed bluegrass rockers King Wilkie. "I was going to go back to grad school for landscape architecture or urban planning–- but I wasn't ready and I still had the bug to make music."
Strong words for a successful local musician–- albeit, success in a supporting role. Pitney has a stretch of musical personas associated with his local career: starting in King Wilkie in the early 2000s before working exclusively with folk singer-songwriter Sarah White. Yet after years of playing the supporting role, Pitney has stopped writing music for others and started playing exclusively for himself.
His debut EP, The Genesee, provides a glimpse into the musical aesthetic of Ted Pitney, the solo artist–- but don't expect to hear any radio singles, clearly definable genres, or overall thematic ties. That's just not his style.
The album stems from a writing and recording session Pitney had in March of 2009. Alone in a friend's house in Martha's Vineyard for a month-long, self-motivated music-making session, Pitney emerged unscathed–- and carrying the footprints of several solo songs.
The resulting sound is emotionally poignant, acoustically intimate, and reflective of Pitney's prior experience with bluegrass, rock, and folk. The first three songs are pretty, in a nutshell, with Pitney's vocals soothing, the guitar twangy, and the rhythm slow. Tracks four and five, "In & Out of Place," and "Power Lines," are more upbeat in tempo, rising up from the dusty depths of a front porch or stretch of Martha's Vineyard beach.
"We drink in our kitchen / 'til it's fuzzy and warm / And we won't find a better / Won't find a better home," Pitney sings on "Power Lines," the most mainstream radio-friendly track on the EP.
It's safe to say The Genesee is embedded with intimacy and locality as the title references a river that ran near Pitney's childhood home in New York state, and several tracks–- "Thirteen Falls" and "October Fire"–- embellish stories that are rooted in a "true moment or true place," according to Pitney.
"I like intimate music–- I like music that asks something of the listener," he reflects. "I feel like I'm trying to take a swing at something new, and if people sit down and listen and don't even know how to classify this, I think that's great."
Yet, classifiable or not, the album resonates with the laid-back, weather-beaten aesthetic of Martha's Vineyard. With The Genesee, Pitney has created such an understated, leisurely sound.
Ted Pitney releases The Genesee at The Southern Friday, July 9. Horsehead opens. The show starts at 8pm, and tickets are $8.