I’ve known Peter Bruntnell’s music since the mid 90s when he signed to Almo Sounds and I was introduced to him at a showcase launch event. Much taken by the somewhat mournful tenor that ran through songs like I Will I Won’t, I Want You and Astronaut, I figured him to be a songwriter of some distinction. His songs had that uncanny knack of carrying emotional weight with a feather light frisson of melody and meaning that captured the unique and the everyday in one bittersweet pill.
Down the years there have been gigs, I’ve met the man personally several times and always warmed to his likeable, easy going nature. But over the years the gaps between such meeting have become longer. I doubt that he’ll honestly recall our Amsterdam encounter, the coincidence of unknowingly being on the same bargain flight, my wife’s need for a comfort stop on arrival at Schipol that ensured we would bump (almost literally) into each other and the subsequent gig he played with James at the Milkweg. It meant a lot to me at the time and I still fondly recall the events to anyone who’ll listen, when Peter pops, all too occasionally, into my life.
Of course things have moved on, but an invite to see him play at the Water Rats led to me immediately summoning a gig buddy and selling the idea to him. “ He’s a great songwriter,” I assured my pal and despite a lack of prior knowledge he agreed to give it a go.
The Water Rats is one of those funny little venues that I don’t really much care for and yet generally confounds me by being a place where I’ve seen some really top gigs. On the night, it was nicely busy, not jammed, but with sufficient bodies in there to make for a bit of an atmosphere and actually something of a keen anticipation in the air. Circumstances meant that we arrived with only about five minutes to spare, so missed any support acts, something that can cut both ways. The result was that no sooner than drinks were in hand we took our place in the back room and Peter and band struck up.
Opening with Bruise On The Sky, the quartet are straight into their element and the audience in familiar territory. A cast around the room found an immediately happy throng, their faces lit with wistful smiles. My gig buddy leans in and informs me, “I know this one,” although oddly, I’ll confess I don’t. Still, it’s a good start, with Peter and James sporting matching Fender Jazzmasters, of slightly different hues, their valve amps giving that creamy warmth to their guitar interplay.
Peter lets us know he is prepared to wander from the prescribed set list, but the new retrospective CD is the volume that contains the songs getting an airing tonight. It unquestionably keeps the audience content and he rolls through the likes of Little Lorelei, By The Time My Head Gets To Phoenix, 25 Reasons, Here Come The Swells and Played Out. Another couple of song that I don’t know, Ghost Dog and London Clay prompts a special little epiphany of sorts, as I realise what I’ve been missing.
Getting home I’m reassured that I have quite a selection of Peter’s CDs, including the current Retrospective. There are just three gaps: Played Out, oddly is an absentee, but the others are the more recent Black Mountain U.F.O and Ringo Woz Ere. It suddenly strikes me that the CDs have been filed away for some time although Ghosts In The Spitfire has had an airing in recent memory. But it’s seeing him play and coming away with that special little smile that has really brought it home – sometimes it’s first impressions that really matter and anyway Peter, it’s been far too long. So, to paraphrase Jesse’s diets from The Fast Show, “This week I will mostly be playing Peter Bruntnell CDs.” It’s about time too.
Review by: Simon Holland
The London Clay (Strongroom Sessions)
Retrospective Album Stream
Friday 1st November – The Palmeira – Hove
Saturday 2nd November – Pilton Village Hall – Barnstable
Monday 4th November – The Louisiana – Bristol
Retrospective released via Loose Music 24 Jun 2013
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