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Peter Bruntnell

Normal For Bridgwater – 2000 (Slow River/Rykodisc)

Reviewed by Michael Berick

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CDs by Peter Bruntnell

A buzz started growing last year for Englishman Peter Bruntnell as word and, import copies of this made their way across the Atlantic. Initial interest in alt. country circles undoubtedly came from the Son Volt connections. Not only do Eric Heywood and Dave Boquist appear, but Bruntnell's hushed vocals and his electric guitar-laced, acoustic-based sound bear some general similarities to the much-worshipped Jay Farrar and his band.

But it is with great relief, and much enthusiasm, to reveal that this is a genuinely exquisite album; one that exists successfully outside of its Son Volt connections. Bruntnell's songs smoothly incorporate the twangy sounds of steel pedal and fiddle along with moments of cranked up guitar pop. He has a talent for building memorable songs with gentle hooks, as in "N.F.B.," or for rousing, chimey ones, like the terrific "By The Time My Head Gets To Phoenix."

Bruntnell's vocals are equally as impressive. While there's a touch of Farrar's wounded intimacy, Bruntnell's voice also blends in a honeyed warmth that Evan Dando brings to his better work. Bruntnell subtly charms you, winning you over with endearing singing and enchanting songs.