Fowl River Productions
Get out your handkerchiefs, folks.
Not only does Pete Pidgeon’s In the Name of Megan Smith feature the result of some serious vocal woodshedding by the Brooklyn-based musician – he’s also mastered the art of turning your heart totally inside-out. Pidgeon’s singing chops have always set him apart from the pack (beginning with his work on 2003’s …At First Sight), but on his latest album, he displays a simply fearless mastery of feel-the-note-and-it-will-come vocals. Combine that with a collection of soul-baring tunes and you have an album whose beauty and openness are almost enough to make you blush.
If Pidgeon’s past efforts established him as conversant in the art of jampop, Megan Smith finds him a talented translator of the language of the heart. There’s no smoke or mirrors on this album – the instrumentation is sparse (and mostly acoustic) and Pidgeon’s vocals are as untreated as they are untethered. (No Auto-Tune gimmickry here, folks.)
“Love is love is love is love,” Pidgeon assures us over a gently-rippling piano on “Soon To Be Sunday”, while “This Opening” feels as familiar on the first listen as an old Harry Nilsson tune. On “Enlightened”, Pidgeon’s guitar easily swings from moments of flamenco-flavored percussion to lovely Stephen Stills-ish chording while dancing with his vocals. The righteous centerpiece of the album, however, is the title tune.
Go back to Joshua Tree-era U2, give Edge a mandolin instead of an electric guitar and loop pedal, and you might come close to the slow-building wallop of “In the Name of Megan Smith”. (By the way, the tune is named for a long-vanished love from Pidgeon’s elementary school days.) The emotion rolls in like gentle surf through the first couple of verses, gathering momentum until it peaks in a lovely cascade of sweetly trilling mando, timpani-entwined acoustic guitar, and heartfelt vocals by Pidgeon. The music subsides (the surf retreats back along the sand) and the listener is left knowing that it doesn’t get much more real and open than that. Take a deep breath and go on … just as a young Pete Pidgeon did all those years ago.