Pete Price’s new solo album Department of the Interior couples inspired musicianship, melodic yet boisterous guitar, and mature songwriting. It delivers quite a wallop. Price does not impress listeners with shallow musical pyrotechnics, glib attempts to sound current, or showy displays of virtuosity. Instead, Price’s gifts take shape as potent melodies, fiery guitar work with a great sound, and intelligent lyrics replete with a smattering of genuine poetry. It is a well-deserved and thoughtful triumph for one of the indie music world’s most respected musicians and songwriters. His talents have never shone brighter, and Price comes across, after 30+ years as a professional musician, like he is working at the peak of his powers.
It is impossible to not hear the inspiration present in this work. It jumps out of the opener and first single “Diamonds in the Sky”. Guitar playing with purpose is the defining element of this cut and you’ll be hard-pressed to hear even a single ornamental note. Everything about it hinges on melody rather than hot dogging in a misguided attempt to wow listeners. “The Crossing” follows the opener and takes a different path. Violin plays a large role in the song’s sound without ever dominating the performance and Price’s guitar playing assumes secondary importance for the bulk of the track. It isn’t difficult to hear his countryfied influences at work here, but the song’s identity isn’t out of step with the other material.
“Old Movies and You” is a genuine weeper lacking any melodrama to drag it down. You can hear how Price went to great pains to avoid any of the usual histrionics and, instead, turns his attention to the concrete realities of the situation. The vulnerability of the lyrics is breathtaking, and Price infuses his vocals with the right amount of emotion. He overplays nothing. “I Love Soul and I Love Rock” is a statement of purpose, entertaining, and full of musical fire. Price is relaxed and comfortable throughout and the song does an excellent job of incorporating elements of both styles into the finished product.
He reverts to a bluesy sound for “Taste of Freedom”. Anyone who doesn’t love the piano, blistering guitar, and the zest in Price’s voice needs to have their hearing checked. It’s a timeless subject that other artists tackle in their own way, but you can’t find any outright imitation marring this song. “Let It Go” is another barnburner that accumulates its final impact rather than trying to bulldoze listeners. His understanding of how dynamics can turn in a song in a positive direction is on full display with this performance.
Department of the Interior is an album that took Price over a year to write and record, but a lifetime to live. The seasoned veteran has reached a point in his career where he isn’t putting a foot wrong and whatever reservations or insecurities that he struggled with early in his musical career have vanished. It’s a powerful release, without question, and well worth your time and hard earned money.