Peter Joseph Burtt escapes the ‘Mermaid’s Curse’

 

Feb. 4 | 9 p.m.
$15 advance | $18 at the door
Crystal Bay Casino | Crystal Bay, Nev.

After recovering from heart surgery late last year, Peter Joseph Burtt has delivered a new album full of introspection, honesty, heartbreak and hope. Released in November, “Mermaid’s Curse” picks up where Burtt left off, exploring themes of mortality and love with a steady groove of soul, reggae, blues and West African rhythm.

Evermore so, Burtt’s backing band delivers a cohesive sound, each instrument weaving around the other to create a repetitive yet subtle, ever-changing tapestry of sound within Burtt’s unique genre. Featuring Mama’s Cookin’ alums Zebuel Early and Mike Adamo on guitar and drums, respectively, Sneaky Creatures’ Todd Holway on keyboards, Ibou N’gom of SambaDá on percussion and local producer Sam Ravenna on bass, The King Tide bestow the perfect resonance to compliment Burtt’s raw and poignant songwriting.

After kicking off with some funky reggae and blues, the album opens up on “Portrait of Marilyn.” This catchy tune drops Burtt back into a familiar West African groove of contrasted drop beat and syncopation highlighted by a gorgeous rollicking Fender Rhodes solo courtesy of Holway.

“Trapped Again” is classic Burtt: a soulful, gritty voice delivery of heartfelt and expressive lyrics. Ravenna’s bass sounds as sharp and punchy as ever while Adamo’s drumming hits tight and understated, maintaining an unflappable groove throughout.

“I can let the hand of fate drag me down,” sings Burtt. “I ain’t got no angel of mercy that came to stay and I got swept away.”


Peter Joseph Burtt’s philosophical lyrics deal with a true yearning, love and loss and the limitations of being human.


After the echoing The King Tide refrain of “This Ain’t That” title track, “Mermaid’s Curse” presents a descriptive, imaginative story of a lighthouse master who loses his love to the fate of the sea. The percussive influences of West Africa are fully palpable here with the use of djembe, talking drum and kora interspersed with Early’s spot-on Spanish guitar licks; the ensemble creates an instantly recognizable King Tide sound. Its Taj Mahal meets Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and Burtt is truly in his element again.

Listen to the West African grooves of “Portrait of Marilyn”

“Born All Over” jumps back into the roots of reggae and soul music to tell a story of redemption. This was the lone song Burtt performed at the 2015 benefit concert just two weeks after his operation to fix a leaking aorta. The fact that his heart was leaking is no surprise; based on his music and songwriting alone, this essential organ must be overflowing with emotion and human connection.

Burtt’s philosophical lyrics deal with a true yearning, love and loss and the limitations of being human. On closing tracks, “To Be Perfect” and “Invisible,” he grapples with similar themes over a relentlessly uplifting musical palette, asking the listener to contemplate possibilities still left unsung.

While there is nothing as attention-grabbing as his cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” from Burtt’s 2013 album “Bone to Stone,” overall “Mermaid’s Curse” offers a more unified vision and sound that shows The King Tide gelling into one of the most distinctive acts in the Tahoe region. It’s the perfect vehicle for Burtt’s immense talent and creativity and is sure to be a locals’ favorite album over the course of the coming year. Welcome back, Peter. There’s to lots more to come.

Peter Joseph Burtt and The King Tide are opening for the Dead Winter Carpenters. There will also be an after party with Grant Farm. | crystalbaycasino.com

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Sean McAlindin

Sean McAlindin is a writer, musician and educator based in Truckee. When he’s not drafting new story ideas, he can be found jamming with his Celtic bluegrass band, Lost Whiskey Engine, hiking for a local back-country powder stash or hanging out with his daughter, Penelope.