Detroit born songsmith Martin X. Petz returns with his second full-length Chained and it’s obvious that he’s on a path of determination to get his songs out into the public eye. The singer works his magic in a simple, stripped-down aesthetic with able backing from his collaborators. The focal point, however, is always Petz’ voice, acoustic guitar and heartbreaking lyrics.
There is nothing flashy about this album as most of the tracks follow the same structure, but ability and passion help elevate the performances. The title track is a tale of love lost where Petz’s hickory smoked voice narrates his dilemma with heart and soul over a heartland country guitar lick. His voice is strong, just gruff enough without losing the melody and you can tell he really means the lyrics he delivers. The bass provides an amiable thump as the drumming eschews flash for affectionate accents. In terms of lyrical construction, Martin is a storyteller grounded in real world life and love and the subject matter on this track appears to be about a lover that you just can’t get away from.
“They Say (You’ll Never Know)” delves into 90s country rock with a dipping rhythmic groove and steadfast time-keeping as infectious slide guitar gives way to slightly amplified licks. The vocals are strong and expressive in this one. It sounds as if Petz has just discovered the infidelity of a lover in this piece and he really sells emotional baggage of longing. His style here is oddly reminiscent of George Strait. The electric guitar leads really spruce things up and act as an exciting counterpoint to the slide leads. “It’s Hard” kicks off with a commanding beat on the snare before going into a mid-tempo hip-shaker where the uplifting keyboards, horns and guitar licks paint a picture of wandering the open road looking for our destiny. Reducing the album’s enticing grooves to modest balladry, Petz allows his acoustic guitar to do the talking while paintbrush drumming keeps the beat insistent, but not distracting. It’s in these quiet moments where the singer/songwriter’s hearty voice is at its best delivering tender vulnerability without faltering. There is just enough eclectic instrumentation on hand like piano and chimes to color in the dreamy atmosphere. It’s a soothing companion piece when stacked up alongside the acoustic/vocal softness of “All That I Am,” where Martin handles the vast majority of the instrumentation himself and his melody lines absolutely shine like a harvest moon in the depths of a night sky.
Petz knows that arrangement and sequencing are important in making an album that sticks, so it was a wise decision to kick back into mid-tempo, 90s Nashville rock tinged country on “Jesus Love Us So.” A brass section returns to the mix while the drumming digs into some harder tom accents to help push the vocals up to the height where they need to be. Further rocking things out, “Run Ride Leave” is powered by a dusty, Dodge City drum march that incorporates an authentic Western feel into the songwriting. It’s a song of lost love as influenced by the people a man hangs out with. Martin’s voice is strong and gritty here while the guitars toy with a Mexican touch that would make the late, great Marty Robbins proud. “The Way” returns to the softer side of town but sees diminishing results when compared to the ballads that came before it. It picks up much later with some really plucky acoustic guitar, but it would have been nice to see the energy sustain itself just a smidge longer. Rectifying the lull in energy, “This Love” uses acoustic guitar strummed at a faster tempo with cracking drums to stride itself safely between a harder country tune and a stunning ballad. It’s an easy pick for the album’s standout track. Closer, “Jesus Can You Hear Me” has that southern western country aura lifted directly from Marty Robbins and Michael Martin Murphey, making for a perfectly lively finale number that leaves the listener wanting more.
Chained is a soothing piece of old school country that showcases the noteworthy abilities of Martin X. Petz and his knack for winding vocal melodies and gracious acoustic guitar prowess. There are more hits than misses on this album and, for a second release in Martin’s career, it’s highly developed. It’s definitely worth checking out for country music fans tired of the rap and pop stuff that’s pervaded the genre in recent years.
Purchase Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/chained/id1050269394
by Lance Wright