Stephen Dale Petit - Cracking The Code (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
THERE’S no denying that Stephen Dale Petit is a great guitarist. But his new album Cracking The Code also shows him to be a pretty useful vocalist capable of mixing things up as an original songwriter too.
His fifth album was recorded at Nashville’s storied Blackbird Studio with three time Grammy award winner Vance Powell (of Jack White’s The Raconteurs and Buddy Guy fame) and comes complete with a guest rota including Dr John, The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, Rolling Stone Mick Taylor and Chris Barber (not to mention Petit’s impossibly young band, who average 20 years of age).
The album is also notable for featuring the last music ever made by Howlin’ Wolf’s master guitarist Hubert Sumlin, recorded days before his death.
But throughout, it’s Petit’s personality that shines, even though some of his style draws comparisons with everyone from Jet and The Rolling Stones to Lenny Kravitz and beyond.
Album opener Holla is an appropriate starting point, blasting its way out of the speakers with some fiery guitar work and a belting chorus that’s soaked (positively drenched) in hedonistic rock ‘n’ roll tendencies (it’s delivered with Messrs. Taylor, Sumlin and Carney).
Wonder maintains the hedonistic vibe, offering a fresh take on sexual desire that drops lines like “I wonder what you sound like when you come” and drops in a searing guitar solo.
It’s followed by the giant swampy riff of Get You Off (featuring Dr John and Sumlin), which trades bluesy, playful piano with a meaty, equally bluesy riff, while Hard To Love You has an anthemic vibe of pure old-school rock ‘n’ roll quality a la Jet.
Petit’s passion for the blues is given a delicious workout (especially guitar-wise) on Approximately Perfect Heartbreak, which opens with another great guitar solo, while Muzzle (with its Kravitz-style vibe) and Riot City just exist to rock your socks off (the latter finds Petit vocally channelling the raw energy of a young Jagger).
Shotgun Venus is designed as a hard charging hat tip to Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love and was co-written with Cream lyricist Pete Brown (it’s predictably great fun), while Slideaway is delivered in full blues howl and brandishes a new language in guitar solos.
It’s clear throughout that Petit is having a blast. And that sense of fun is infectious, right down to final offering, the tribute-in-song Hubert’s Blues (featuring Taylor, Dr John and Chris Barber) and which begins in lazy blues fashion (complete with lazy horns) before suddenly changing tempo for a party-style finale.
Rock ‘n’ roll purists will have a field day with this one – it’s that good.
Download picks: Holla, Get You Off, Hard To Love You, Shotgun Venus, Hubert’s Blues.