Martin X. Petz – Broken Man
Michigan born and raised singer/songwriter and guitarist Martin X. Petz has established a reputation as one of the most eloquent songwriters working on the independent scene today. His songwriting is rapidly becoming renowned for its ability to depict the vagaries of everyday life with immediate, comprehensible language that delves deep into those realities without ever risking pretension. He’s composed music for these songs that is equally immediate and comprehensible, but more importantly, it shows off a real penchant for tasteful composition that doesn’t overreach and precisely orchestrates its elements in such a way that it feeds into the lyric as the words complement the playing. The production takes on a bit of an overly-theatrical air at scattered points, but it largely gives Petz an ideal forum for his songwriting that renders the musical moves with clarity and warmth.
The title song is surprisingly bluesy and demonstrates a command of dynamics not heard or even needed in later songs. The lyrical content is terse; conveying its point in as few words as possible, and fits the arrangement quite well. “Noble Blues” has a much brighter musical demeanor despite the rather deflated subject matter and its storytelling aspects are strong. The third song “Fall” is a much more folky number than the previous two. It allows a chance for his sensitivity for interpreting these tunes a chance to really take flight for the first time. One of the signature elements of his style as a performer is his patience – these performances are never rushed but, instead, caressed from his voice and guitar respectively. “Castaway” is, arguably, the closest that Broken Man comes to outright commerciality. There’s a little more accompaniment playing alongside Petz on this track and strong country music overtones, but much of its merit is derived from how he has obviously written a melodic track with individual parts that hang together quite nicely and how clearly he lays his heart bare here. He balances his ear for commercial turns in the music with the desire to express himself as honestly as possible.
“Run Ride Leave” is a bit more lyrically rueful than most Petz songs as he casts a weary eye back on his own failures, but it wouldn’t be a Martin Petz song if, ultimately, his narrator didn’t learn something and grow from the experience. Mainstream appeal similar to the earlier song “Castaway” makes its presence felt on the album’s penultimate track “They Say (You’ll Know)”. Petz really scores when his songwriting does the best job of making the personal universal and few songs on Broken Man do it better than this. “Chained”, the album’s final cut, returns listeners to Petz’s more personal musings backed by shimmering guitar work. It ends Broken Man on a pensive note. His songwriting continues to grow in both fluency and thematic range. Many of Petz’s earlier efforts expended much of their attention on an inward turned gaze, but the songwriting on Broken Man increasingly sees a much wider world and connects it to the personal in creative, surprising ways.
8 out of 10 stars