When Bob Pepek released his anticipated debut album “From the Let Go” in January 2009, Skope Magazine listed him as “Artist to Watch”. Bob started at local small coffee shops and gradually ascended to playing opening gigs for national acts that include Amie Miriello, Black47, and Julia Nunes. He became a popular local hit in the New England music scene, but he developed an affinity with traveling which allowed his performances to reach a wider coast-to-coast audience. Bob recorded his latest album, “Pratfalls and Curtain Calls”, in Nashville with producers Jeff Sturms and Dave Albro over at Capricorn Sound Works.
I’ve chewed through the 10 track album and listened on a hi-res headphone rig and through loudspeakers. It’s all good, great in fact. And when compared to what passes for radio in the 21st century it’s mind blowing. The acoustic singer-songwriter sound beaten and coaxed into a set of alternative pop gems probably took a level of mastery you just don’t find often anymore.
It can be referred to as atmospheric and I’ll agree completely. Others can talk about crunchy guitar, it is indeed there. Does it rock? In fact it does. If you can get through “Pratfalls and Curtain Calls” without tapping your feet, humming along and playing air guitar – the question will be: “What’s wrong with you, man?”
Another thought or two. This album is absolutely clean. No production voodoo garbage, real clean audio. In a time when many recordings have been made using more studio artistry than performance skill, that alone is refreshing and worth giving it a good long listen, well several listens actually. Every note hits you right in the gut, the heart, the head, and anywhere that matters.
But it does so without being overwhelming or over melodramatic. The songs play in their simplicity, wrapped inside luscious musical arrangements and organic instrumentation – Sometimes showcased within faster, upbeat rhythms, as on “Against My Will” or “Ship Me Away”, but more often on slower emotional songs like, “I’ll Carry On”, “Missing You” and “Any Other Man”.
Bob Pepek can also strip it right down to acoustic guitar and voice as he does on “Take Me for Me (Acoustic)”, and which surprisingly is one of the better performances on the entire recording, from my personal point of view.
The whole affair is grounded by Pepek’s ever-impressive vocals. With his rich, wide-ranging voice, the man was made to sing these kinds of songs, and the songwriting here present him at his very best, as he consistently infuses his lines with impressive conviction.
The songs on “Pratfalls and Curtain Calls” are fairly consistently strong, and there is probably something for everybody here from “Amber, Smoke, and Ashes” to “Out Loud” and “Take Me for Me”. Bob Pepek doesn’t try anything fancy on these songs, nor does he need to. They simply put the spotlight on the front-man and let him knock every one of these songs high into the blues skies and right out of the park.