Petunia and the Vipers
Petunia and the Vipers [2012] (885767835351)

The Cricket Song - Mercy - Maybe Baby Amy - Bright Light - Yes Baby Yes - Gitterbug - Stardust - The Ballad Of Handsome Ned - Broken Down Love - Che - Forbidden Lovers - It AIn't

Petunia and the Vipers come from Canada. The Vipers consist of Jimmy Roy, Stephen Nikleva, Sam Shoichet and Marc L'Esperance who were all associated to the late Ray Condo at one time or another. They offer an album full of diversity, sometimes sweet, sometimes spooky but always centered around Petunia's peculiar vocals.
Most of the songs are Petunia's own but two: Stardust (that features a stunning lap steel chorus by Jimmy Roy) and Lefty Frizzell's classic Honky Tonk Forbidden Lovers (that suits them vety fine).
The opening song is a delicious country waltz with yodel. Though it remains quite classical, there are little hints of what will follow, like the unusual variations of the structure Next is "Mercy", a very tense number, in which Petunia seems inhabited, almost haunted. It sounds like an impromptu jam between Nick Cave and Tom Waits with a western band. "The Ballad Of Handsome Ned" is in a similar vein. It begins with a theatrical intro then slides in a Marty Robbins meets Nick Cave in a moonless night kind of western ballad. "Yes Baby Yes"(quite similar to Oscar Woods "Don't Sell It) and "It Ain't" are in a hokum swing style with kazoo with a modern hint and both are very good.
I'm less convinced by "Maybe Baby Amy" a wild rockabilly and "Gitterbug" that melts the frantic pace of Jerry Lee's Great Balls Of Fire with Charlie Feather's syncopation. I couldn't help but compare them to Ray Condo. I think that those two songs and the two latin/samba numbers ("Bright Light" and "Che") are less interesting than the rest of is stuff which is more original.
Despite two or three songs that I easily skip it remains a good album, but for the more open minded listeners.

Fred "Virgil" Turgis