Pierce Pettis

State of Grace

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A primitive painting of a simple village bathed in yellow and pale green, inscribed with the promise of peace forever, graces the cover of Pierce Pettis' State of Grace album. Of course, Howard Finster's apocalyptic cover art alone couldn't make an album successful, but it sure helps to make a good first impression. With his third Compass release, Pettis returns with some tight accompaniment, a couple of good covers, and the well-written songs that his fans have come to expect. Things push off with a nice version of Mark Heard's "Rise From the Ruins," a catchy tune with the catchy lyric, "There ain't nobody asks to be born/There ain't nobody wishes to die," setting the mood for this spiritual journey. The title cut draws a parallel between a state of grace and life in the South, celebrating the land, the agriculture, and the people. Pettis' reverent delivery transforms the song into a prayer of thanks to his homeland and the richness of its culture. The journey continues, first in the general sense of returning to one's home after a long absence, and then to specific locations like Atlanta, GA, and Orlando, FL. In "Georgia Moon," memories are tinged with the melancholy of what has been lost, though "We Will Meet Again" holds out hope for transcendence in the next world. All of these moods -- memories, lost love, and faith -- mingle together on State of Grace, creating a portrait of an artist perceptively exploring his roots. Listeners should also stick around for a lively take on Bob Dylan's "Down in the Flood" near the end of the album. This is a solid effort, made by a singer who understands how to shape his vision into an artistic whole as well as please old fans.

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