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On the border of feelings, Petti

When we discovered Petti a couple of years ago, first live and then almost immediately through the eleven songs that make up ‘Amets bat’, the impact was fierce and instantaneous. We said then that he was a diamond in the rough, a new voice on the Basque music scene, a fine guitar player, a bluesman, sometimes brilliant and passionate, always offering interpretations of the experience of living as poetic as they were wild. He is also a pioneer in the style we could dub ‘folk gone wild’.

As the months passed, however, and we saw Patti again sweating out songs live, we were forced to reassess our first impression. Despite his dense obscurity, or perhaps precisely because of it, Petti was no rough diamond, but rather a glittering jewel with all his faces highly polished, who simply needed looking after and offered the chance to record his songs. It is always a challenge to record that ‘difficult second album’, as those in the business call it, especially when the first was such a success, and the project submerged both the singer and the record company in a sea of doubts. Like Neil Young, Petti has a wider, more electric and blues side, which he has perfected on stage but never recorded on CD. This could be one option, but there were also a number of other songs that were more folk oriented and which were also clamouring to be recorded. At one point we contemplated a double, simultaneous project but finally opted to postpone this walk on Petti’s wild side and the more risky option of recording these eleven songs was chosen. Everyone involved knew the path would be rocky, but that is often the way with the things we love most in this life.

‘Arrazoiak’ is a work that needs to be savoured in small doses, in order to appreciate better its fine flavour. There could not have been many doubts about starting the album off with ‘bihotzeko harriak’ one of the four texts by Beñardo Goietxe, also from Bera and an old friend of Petti’s. The acoustic guitar, Raúl’s harmonica and the impressionist percussion of Jimmy Arrabit form the minimalist accompaniment chosen by Petti to bear his soul, right down to the very last detail, in this aquatic song with an unexpected ending.

Morau wrote the lyrics to ‘zure isiltasuna’ and the singer moves through the song adapting his voice wonderfully to its oppressive structure. Petti’s songs acquire a transcendence in his voice that is truly believable and has a natural flow. The cathartic pain that appears in ‘sobera erraza’ is another repeated sentiment in the songs of this Navarran singer. Behind this husky voice the gentle notes of the keyboard played by the musician from Gasteiz, Javi Arteaga, sound. Although due to his age, Petti was never directly influenced by Ez dok amairu, his songs nevertheless remind us sometimes of the more brutal of Lete y Laboa’s tracks. ‘Itsuak’, with lyrics by Goietxe, affords another glimpse of this past era. Much closer to his live performances is ‘Arrazoiak’, located in the middle of the album, with its far-off echoes of Arab blues for this bittersweet farewell.

‘Diridra hori’, the longest song, starts with a guitar solo by Richie Havens which sets the tone right at the beginning, until Petti’s voice joins in to take the song to his own depths and magnificent solo performance. Things become sweeter, although in appearance only, in ‘alegia’, with an arpeggio that could almost be by Paul Simon. The violins of Bingen Mendizabal and Marina Beraetxe, respectively, enhance a couple of songs: ‘ez pentsatzea’, with lyrics by Pessoa and ‘ilusio antzua’. In the first of these, Petti enters blues territory with complete heterodoxy and brilliance. The album ends with the singer meditating in a bar. Petti has recorded an existentialist second work, with no sound concessions. The songs (and in this sense he follows the folk tradition) are not about what, but rather how.

Pedro Elias