Peter Bruntnell – Ends of the Earth

Peter Bruntnell
Ends of the Earth

If the merest thought of hearing yet another countrified male singer/songwriter – especially one hailing from the sleepy south-west of England – makes you reach for your revolver, then you had better head off to the firing range right now. However, if you automatically adore the age-old combination of twangy pedal steel and softly strummed strings, whether it’s coming from Nebraska or Alaska, then Peter Bruntnell may well fancy your tickle. If there’s any Brit who can claim an affinity with America’s roots-rock revivalists, then it’s Bruntnell. Since his low-key debut with Cannibal in 1995, Bruntnell has earned his country-rock (stars and) stripes time and time again. Such hard toil has included global touring with The Handsome Family and Willard Grant Conspiracy, recording an acclaimed album for pioneering American alt-country label Slow River Records (past/present home to Sparklehorse and Josh Rouse), and collaborating with ex-members of Son Volt (Jay Farrar’s post-Uncle Tupelo grungy folk-rock outfit).
Now comes Ends of the Earth, Bruntnell’s fourth album (and first for London’s well-loved Loose Records), with more of the same rambling but strangely amenable Americana that’s low on drama but high on humble craftsmanship. From dusty Jayhawks-meets-Tom-Petty power-pop (“Rio Tinto”), through pre-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Wilco-isms (“Black Aces”), and on to porch-lit laments (“Downtown”) that could rival Mark Eitzel, Bruntnell’s command of the country-spun lexicon is consistently likeable if stubbornly straight-laced. Mind you, it’s probably a good thing that Bruntnell does largely stick to his droopy-eyed rural romanticism, because when he veers away from it (particularly on the pitiful polemic-heavy “Tabloid Reporter”) things become embarrassingly unglued.
Despite its grandiose title, Ends of the Earth holds no epic reach beyond its narrow (new) country boundaries. But if you’re a claustrophobic city-dweller daydreaming of long empty highways and backyards the size of football stadiums, this is your well-devised soundtrack, for this month at least.