REVIEW: Petrella — Songs of Many Colors (LP)
Petrella’s Songs of Many Colors is an eleven song collection highlighting the singer’s singular blend of soul and country music. Her take on country music mixes the genre’s traditional musical strengths with modern flourishes and a thoroughly contemporary sound. Her three decades and counting working as a singer informs each composition and the spirit of the dimming pandemic is rife throughout these recordings. It doesn’t hang over the tracks like some sort of darkening specter but, instead, underlines the inherent worth of life rather than wallowing in our shared sorrows. The act of writing and assembling this album is a positive action and there’s ample redemptive power in her age-defying voice.
“Bring It Here Baby” is one of those songs that finds catharsis through music. Petrella’s message in this track is as old as popular music itself and this sort of low-watt love song, lacking all the dramatics of the genuine article, will pluck an universal chord for countless listeners. There are country signatures present in the arrangement, pedal steel is audible without ever sounding prominent, and that’s perhaps one of the few weaknesses in the song. “Be Bop Hoedown” is a marquee number. It’s easy to hear this striding track as a potential breakout song from Songs of Many Colors thanks, in particular, to its potent musicianship and memorable hook. Petrella’s vocal, however, crowns it all with rambunctious pluck and great chemistry with the backing singers.
She reshapes the intensity with the track “Walking Backwards”. It has a much more patient development than the earlier songs and relies on the interaction between Petrella’s phrasing and the music for its dynamics. It revolves largely around the interplay between her and the guitar parts. Some may hear Petrella’s music and peg it as simplistic but there’s a lot of artistry in these understated arrangements. “Cart Before the Horse” is an one hundred eighty degree turn from “Walking Backwards” but every bit as important. It’s another of the album’s best commercially minded efforts and Petrella matches the upbeat tempo with energy to burn.
She’s just as comfortable and confident with the blues as any other style. “Down the Road I Go” isn’t drenched in the Mississippi Delta but she definitely tackles traditional blues in convincing fashion. It’s arguably one of the album’s more retro moments. “Try Something New” is another fast-paced gem that comes at a great place during the release. Petrella has the near-forgotten gift for understanding how to structure a release for maximum effect and this song works as a powerful climax for the release. “Pray”, however, places an emphatic musical exclamation point on Songs of Many Colors and definitely embraces her gospel roots. She splashes the musical confection with a smattering of pop instrumentation and the song’s frantic pace closes the collection in a conclusive way.
Petrella is still thrilled by music, inspired by its potential, and hasn’t lost even a degree of engagement with her material. You can hear her unyielding yearning to create during each of the album’s eleven songs and sings with go-for-broke passion. Few modern singers put so much of themselves into their own work.