Grey Lands is Wayne Petti’s latest project (Petti is a member of alt-country grouping Cuff The Duke, previously formed The Honest Thieves, and is an occasional member of Blue Rodeo). Grey Lands’ album Right Arm is out and available on Paper Bag Records. Petti wrote, produced, recorded and mixed the record with assistance from Ryan Haslett as well as Graham Walsh of Holy Fuck. Dan Empringham is on drums and Nick Hind-Knapp has been added on bass for live shows.
Right Arm is a celebration of the 90s lo-fi Petti grew up with but with the addition of fuzzed-up psychedelic instrumental junkets that are on par with any of Cuff The Duke’s signature sonic soarings. There are a few straight-up pop songs, buoyant with post-punk optimism including lead single, “False Alarm” and “Another Lie” but there is one more element lurking.
On the previous Grey Lands album, a record of covers, Petti and Greg Keelor (Blue Rodeo) took on Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages”. Keelor may well be an influential presence on Right Arm too. Keelor, The Sadies and Rick White of Eric’s Trip had a psyched-out supergroup called The Unintended. Their one album, self-titled, was an eerie build on anglo-folk and Syd Barrett Floyd-isms with a whole lot of dark country ramblings. Petti’s Right Arm may have picked up The Unintended’s S/T and passed back pages through that psychedelic rabbit-hole on Keelor’s farm, ending up on the basement floor of Eric’s Trip. The track “Lo-fi Junkie” can be filed here but there are other tracks that pass a similar vibe around .
“Life Itself” comes in bass heavy folding in on itself, falsetto vocals are quick catches of breath. The song rolls along, “Oh I need you here more than life itself”, but cuts off quickly, spurts out a ratatat beat and drops into some trip-hop deep, dark Garth Hudson Chest Fever organ, slowly fading into the distance, chunky wind chimes clank and clink, as the track subsides.
The two stand-out tracks on this stand-out album are closer “Collide and Conquer” and “Go The Wrong Way”. The former’s chunky riff is a killer propellant for any drive, more so for one that ends in a dock and a calm lake begging to be cannonballed. The longing vocals and drilled down drawl of the latter ends with thundering climax a la The Stranglers “No More Heroes”
On “Go The Wrong Way”, he sings “Even though you end up back where you started I can still see you crawling”. Petti may have gone back to where he sonically started but he is not crawling on this record, he is dancing in an enigmatic no-one is looking manner. He has never sounded so free nor so good.