Dave Pettigrew The Walk as reviewed in the Phantom TollboothPettigrew's last studio album netted him Top 20 artist honors in IndieHeaven.com's 2008 year-end countdown. Does his follow-on effort reach the same lofty heights?



The Walk

Artist: Dave Pettigrew

Label: Independent Artist

Length: 5 tracks/ 29:55


Mention the phrase indie rock and most people see visions of painfully skinny, success-disdaining musicians traveling in bio-fuel-fed vehicles between college towns to regale the small but dedicated fan bases with their cryptic lyrics, lo-fi instrumental approach and decidedly hipper-than-thou attitude. Not so with Dave Pettigrew. Admittedly, the Rhode Island native has yet to sign on the dotted line with the likes of Essential, Forefront or Sparrow Records. And, his credentials as a bona fide member of the independent community are all but cemented by the fact that his current single sits perched in the pole position on the charts at IndieHeaven.com, arguably the most popular and influential online resource for unsigned Christian artists.

Be that as it may, despite his certifiably non-major-label status, Pettigrew's approach to music-making has remained decidedly mainstream, falling somewhere between the adult alternative pop/rock stylings of Train and the heartland rock of artists like Geoff Moore and Bob Seger. This, of course, is hardly a revelation to the already converted, and the good news for them is that the very attributes that rendered Pettigrew's last two studio releases (2005's Somebody I'm Supposed to Be and 2007's Every Minute Miracles) such winning endeavors – his potent vocal work, unflinchingly honest self-assessment and sparkling, full-bodied production aesthetic – are all very much present and accounted for here on the latest outing.

Taken as a whole, though, The Walk may just get a slight nod over its forebears. This edge is due, in large part, to the fact that the five songs on the EP are joined by a singular thematic focus that bonds them together into a more tightly unified whole. While Miracles touched on a topics ranging from interpersonal relationships to the need for God in everyday life, the present project is focused almost exclusively on the actions and attributes of the Divine. "Even if Not" (I know my God will rescue me/ I know my God will come/ And save the day) offers an unwavering declaration of the Lord's faithfulness and power. "The Love of Jesus," on the other hand, testifies to His steadfast mercy and compassion. And "I Give You All" (To the One victorious/ There is none more glorious/ To the only God I know) and "Hallelujah" are, at their core, simply the results of Pettigrew setting his most intimate and heartfelt observations about his Savior to music.

It should be noted that The Walk is a distinctly more understated affair than either Somebody or Miracles. That said, it still carries the same poignancy and impact as its imposing predecessors. Much of the credit for this undergirding strength lies in Pettigrew's consummate use of timing and restraint. The towering leadoff track, "The Love of Jesus," is a prime example; starting off quietly and swelling slowly, but deliberately, to its inevitable conclusion rather than merely pummeling the listener over the head from start to finish. The shimmering piano-driven ballad, "Even If Not," which pulls a page from the playbooks of artists like Mat Kearney and Daniel Powter, is likewise appropriately subdued in its approach. And, at six-plus minutes each, "We Will Remain" and the equally stirring "I Give You All" are, thankfully, in no hurry to make their important, and excellently-stated, points.

Unlike the last two efforts, The Walk isn't so much a collection of three-and-a-half minute, radio-ready singles as it is a suite of extended, and interconnected, compositions, each of which builds upon the cuts before it and sets the mood for those that follow. Indeed, where most of the songs on the previous releases stood perfectly well on their own, the current mini-album is best appreciated when listened to straight through in a single sitting. Given its average track length of just under six minutes, this may well be a no-go for members of the short attention span crowd and iPod owners whose units are permanently set to shuffle mode. Serious music lovers willing to invest the time and energy to listen to Pettigrew's new project with an open ear, on the other hand, will surely find their patience and grace most richly rewarded.


Bert Gangl