While the album title uses the term "new punk blues," what Ed Pettersen is is a singer/songwriter who utilizes elements of rock, folk, soul, and, yes, the blues in his literate yet visceral music. The Long Island-born, Nashville-based Pettersen stocks his disc with a bounty of colorful tales, whether he is writing about others or himself. The title character in "Jimmy Parker" is "known to get a little crazy" but Pettersen still sees his virtues and considers him a friend. On the haunting "Tabitha," Pettersen assumes the voice of a runaway teenage girl who yearns to return home. Several of his story-songs delve into more personal territory. "June 1945" concerns his philandering grandfather who briefly abandoned one family to start another. The jangly, joyous rocker "Top Ten" pays tribute to Pettersen's pal Scott Kempner, a founding member of the Dictators and Del Lords. Several other tunes feel drawn from Pettersen's own life. The bittersweet, horn-punctuated "Magic Glasses" suggests that life "is not that funny at all." In the quietly powerful "Burning Up," he acknowledges that he has "spent most of my life burning up." The personal gets politicized on the songs that bookend the disc. The album's opener "Gather the Family 'Round" seemingly references Hurricane Katrina, with it's "High water 8 feet and rising/We're all gonna drown" line, but it also addresses other American troubles like racial problems and high gas prices. The closing number, "Baghdad," offers a fierce look at the Iraqi war, but Pettersen stops short of making a full indictment, stating: "I'm not saying it's right or wrong/It's just my job to write this song." Throughout the album, he does a terrific job at shifting tempos (from the Steppenwolf-like rocker "I'm Not Coming Home" to the quiet finger-picking on "Chelsea") along with providing some memorable story-telling. Aiding Pettersen here are a number of talented sessionmen, including Muscle Shoals vet guitarist Reggie Young, longtime Motown bassist Bob Babbitt, Average White Band drummer Peter Abbott, and legendary steel guitar player Al Perkins. While it has been a few years since his last release (2003's Two T's All E's), New Punk Blues amply demonstrates that Pettersen has much to say and a compelling musical style to express it.
AllMusic Review by Michael Berick