Some good things have come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. It forced people to stop, slow down, and take stock. It put otherwise busy creative individuals in a position where they could not ply their chosen trade and, instead, refocused their creativity. Pete Price is one of those people. The songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist kept his nose to the proverbial grindstone for over thirty years playing with The Fries Band, as well as other assorted gigs along the way, and his songwriting output reflects that. He was always angling for time to write, fitting it into a busy schedule, yet keeping it high quality.
The pandemic changed that. The opportunity to fine tune his material has resulted in his solo release Department of the Interior. Twelve songs made the final cut and gave him a large canvas for demonstrating his continuing growth. It isn’t hard to hear his veteran talents. Each one of the album’s dozen tracks are honed to a sharp edge, free from cumbersome pretentiousness, and overflowing with melody.
Melody leaps out at listeners from the first. Price’s spectacular guitar playing during the album opener “Diamonds in the Sky” soars into the stratosphere and carries you along for the ride. He has a strong, yet imperfect, voice for the material. The imperfections, however, are part of the song’s charm. This is intensely human music, deeply felt, and doesn’t traffic in the trivial. His aforementioned penchant for melody makes it all the more memorable.
“The Crossing” harbors the same melodic power. Much of the track, however, relies on lyrical violin playing and it isn’t until we’re past the song’s midway point before Price’s guitar breaks through. The introspective lyrics are bursting with imagery drawn from nature and the internal consistency of Price’s message illustrates the focus he brings to the project. Violin surfaces again during the third track “Common Ground” and the song’s acoustic tilt gives listeners a welcome change of pace. It’s a socially conscious track, but Price refrains from sermonizing and states his case instead with intelligence and equanimity.
“Old Movies and You” leans into the singer/songwriter vibe defining so much of the release. The grieving whine of slide guitar, restrained yet effective, laces through the song with a lonesome cry. It’s a forlorn breakup song, a little too literal perhaps, but its cathartic value cannot be underestimated. The languid later track “Legacy of Love” has a light Latin touch, but Price never overplays his hand. Many will underrate his vocals, but a single pass through this album shows he can sing a range of styles with convincing emotional authority. It extends to his guitar playing as well.
The finale “One More Time”, co-written with James Mills, has a feeling of leave-taking, but Price will be back again. It is a simmering track from the first and, when it reaches its boiling point, the passion of the performance throws off undeniable sparks. Department of the Interior is a must-hear for anyone interested in adult and fully committed songwriting.