Russ Pettit: Travels of a Falling Leaf
Russ Pettit hails from California and has been a serious guitarist for 30 years, and an instructor for more than 2 decades. This experience shows in his latest release, Travels of a Falling Leaf, which is a departure from his earlier work, as it is all acoustic instruments.
Jeff Beck, Mike Stern, Robben Ford, and Joe Satriani, with whom he studied, are some of his listed heroes. His writing and playing encompass a variety of styles including Jazz, Blues, Reggae, Latin, Classical, and Folk. He lists melody as the most important feature of his own music. These rock and blues influences are apparent on his earlier release The Endless Journey, along with some heavy metal sounds.
On the newly-released Travels of a Falling Leaf, Pettit draws inspiration from the legendary Friday Night in San Francisco album that featured Paco De Lucia, John McLaughlin, and Al Di Meola.
The leadoff track “Causeway” features some speedy tremolo picked lines and is a harbinger of things to come. “Spanish Sky”, with its guest on flute, is a perfect example of the melodic strength in writing, as alluded to by Pettit himself.
His version of “Hotel California” seems like what the reformed Eagles themselves were going for on the acoustic version released on Hell Freezes Over more than 20 years ago. This is a very nice rendition that takes the tune to places the songwriters themselves may have only imagined.
The playful and funky “The Chase” is a bit more progressive rock than the rest of the offerings here, but is still acoustic and still allows for an element of improvisation, so it fits in well and provides contrast. The title track “Travels of a Fallen Leaf” is a moderately-paced jewel of a tune that shows Pettit demonstrating his guitar prowess with overdubs and some exotic note choices.
The muscular bassline of “Transition” becomes the foundation for a very fusion-y song that could have appeared on a Chick Corea album. Pettit (still on acoustic guitar) shines throughout on the cut, and the percussion gives a variation in texture. “Duojets” sounds like a cross between the aforementioned Friday Night in San Francisco material and an accessible classic-rock style melody.
The closing track “Insomnia” is a nice way to end the album, with inspired violin and guitar playing upping the ante. The arrangements and recording quality are professional, and the songwriting is quite advanced. The playing is stellar at times, and this could be a good listen at a dinner party or anytime a refreshing change of place is needed in your album rotation.
Russ Pettit (guitar on all tracks); Daniel Yarritu (guitar on track 7); Willie Garze (percussion); Ron Sotelo (bass); Elzbieta Polak (violin on tracks 2, 6 & 8); Peter Block (flute on track 2); Steven Husted (bass on track 1)