Pete Price’s guitar work alone should push him into the upper echelon of modern musicians. His fluid fretwork, impassioned melodies, and physical sound recalls other guitar greats of yore without ever risking imitation. His six-string talents do not dominate the entirety of his new album Department of the Interior, he’s far too complete of a songwriter to rely on one warhorse to the exclusion of all others. There’s little question, however, that listeners, longtime fans and newcomers alike, will be mightily impressed by his playing throughout Department of the Interior’s dozen tracks and eagerly come back for more. They bear repeated listening.
You’ll hear something new every time. I am especially impressed with the first song “Diamonds in the Sky”. It is not easy to bring touches of real poetry into rock songs without sounding foolish, but Price shows us how it’s done. Merging such sensibilities with authoritative, blues-influenced rock guitar is the sort of thing you need to push a song like this over the top. There’s impassioned soul in the heart of this tune, it holds nothing back, and sets the bar high for everything that follows it.
He is up to the task, however, and “The Crossing” proves it. This isn’t as sonically forceful as its predecessor, there’s more subtlety at work, but the same melodic lyricism powering the opener manifests itself in a different way. Incorporating strings into his songwriting gives the track a graceful lift while emphasizing a level of gravitas missing from the opener. “Common Ground” finds him moving in yet another different direction as his lyrics shift from the personal to the political without ever proselytizing for anything but the cause of humanity. It has an acoustic setting that further softens its message for listeners without compromising the deeply held beliefs of its message.
“I Love Soul and I Love Rock” will go over like crazy for live audiences. He asserts his musical identity a little more than usual here and the motivation, emphasizing the fact he cannot be stylistically boxed in, is evident throughout Department of the Interior. I believe this song may be one of the album’s underrated gems. It has plenty of sonic firepower, as well, without ever going too far. “Taste of Freedom” is another lively number with heart-stopping piano riffing that will compel you to move. The guitar provides a lot of sparks, as well, and Price tailors it for maximum effect.
There’s another dose of guitar pyrotechnics coming with the track “Let It Go”. It’s another of the album’s more personal lyrics, as well, though Price is always careful to turn them in a universally resonant direction. Anyone who has known life’s struggles and challenges will connect with this song. It’s one of the key ingredients that makes Department of the Interior such a memorable experience and Price can’t help but be proud of what he’s accomplished here. If he isn’t, he should be. This is meaningful and entertaining songwriting capable of standing the test of time.