Friday, November 25, 2016

Martin X. Petz - Broken Man

Martin X. Petz - Broken Man 

The best songwriters resist pigeonholing. It might be easy for the uninformed to give Martin X. Petz’s latest full length album Broken Man a single listen and slap an ill-fitting label on it as faith-based or intended for adult oriented radio play. The source and appeal of this nine song work, however, is much broader. These are songs that attempt to dramatize Petz’s own interior struggles, but they just as often look outside the confines of self and connect wonderfully with facets of our lives that, undoubtedly, resonate with a wide swath of potential listeners. His lyrical content avoids inaccessible or high-flown moments of pseudo poetry, but make no mistake that Petz isn’t a superior writer when compared to many of his contemporaries in the field. There’s great intelligence and literacy driving these songs. He emerges from this album not just as a gifted songwriter and musician, but as a storyteller with a voice that’s an ideal vehicle for communicating with his audience. 

The title song incorporates a full band, but their touch is light. Petz keeps this track clipped and doesn’t waste a word or note, but the atmosphere of the song keeps the energy level at an engaging medium. It’s a credit to his songwriting skill that Petz never lets things get too overwrought, but his plain-spoken depiction of despair will be an affecting listening experience for many. “Noble Blues” takes on some of the full band trappings heard on the first song but tempers them somewhat. The result is a much more intimate approach for the song’s first quarter before Petz opts for ramping up the musical stakes during the remaining duration. The album’s third track “Fall” is constructed around a tasteful half shuffle tempo accentuated by understated drums. His vocal shows all of the care and sensitivity for phrasing apparent on the album’s first two songs and there’s some tasty lead guitar here as well. 

A classic count-in opens “Heart & Home” which, as the title implies, celebrates the connections that sustain our lives. The arrangement is full of the sound musical decisions and compelling playing that characterizes the album as a whole, but it does more than that. The song has a great uplifting swing that picks listeners up and keeps them engaged throughout the song. “Count” reaffirms the virtues that guides much of the album’s songwriting with a clean, uncluttered track primarily centered around Petz’s evocatively recorded vocals, his guitar, and light percussion. “They Say (You’ll Know)” has much of the same breezy confidence heard on the album’s best songs and a light shuffle pace that keeps things moving without ever forcing them along. Broken Man’s final song, “Chained”, has much of the same musical focus characterizing earlier tracks like “Count” and relies on intimacy to make its case to the listener.  

There’s deceptive simplicity here, but Petz is a songwriter who realizes the virtue of a song having no more than it needs to get its message/point across to the listener. The nine songs on Broken Man do not pretend to remake the wheel artistically – instead, Petz is a fine product of the singer/songwriter school of popular music and excels at giving his audience entertaining musical material along with substantive words that will reach and touch many hearts.  

9 out of 10 stars 

Lydia Hillenburg

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