December 6, 2022

The Petersens Go Home


I have a process for writing these articles. I collect up albums I think I might want to review and then focus on one or two at a time. First I give the record an initial listen to decide if I want to really write about it. At this stage I typically will make a go/no go decision. I either continue with my evaluation or reject the album as less-than-review-worthy. Reviews take time and I don’t want to waste it on bad or bland albums. If an album passes the initial listen stage, I do a deep dive, start writing, editing, and then publish the review.

Rarely do I find myself stuck between go and no go. The Petersens’ new album, My Ozark Mountain Home, has me stuck in limbo. It’s a good album for sure. The Petersens are a family group, all siblings, who produce sweet, harmony driven, bluegrass and Americana. They came to the attention of a wider audience with their YouTube video of a bluegrass cover of John Denver’s “Country Roads Take Me Home.”

The problem with the Petersens is that, while pleasant to listen to, they are just not exceptional. They do everything well – play, sing, harmonize – but none of it is exciting. It’s excellent background music. This is firmly on display with My Ozark Mountain Home. Everything is so nice but nothing is noteworthy or exciting. It’s bland, in a good way. This is an album to listen to when you are stressed out or need to cool down.

All the songs are just fine. There are some original, some traditional, and some covers, which is traditional in bluegrass. Nothing here is bad. On the other hand, there is nothing electric, no fireworks of fiddling, and thing that blows the top of your head off the way great bluegrass does. Most songs are slow to medium tempo; None are fast or supercharged. All of the songs are interchangeable.

And this is the core reason for my dilemma. It’s nice and I like it but it’s hard to get excited about it. I prefer to be excited about the albums I write about. Yet, we don’t always need toe tapping, mind blowing, dance until the sun burns out it’s fusion core music. There are times that “just fine” works. This is the album for those times.

So, I ended up writing something of a non-review. No song stands out; No performance sticks with me. Everything is just fine. It’s a highly sanitized version of American folk music that would have found a place on a variety show in the 1960s. I suspect that The Petersens would have just been ignored if they weren’t all so photogenic. It’s a band built for YouTube with pretty people playing pleasant songs against a beautiful mountain background. It is a great image even if the music is just okay.

So, listen to the album while drinking coffee and imagining yourself looking out over a mountain meadow. It’s okay if it seems like a Folgers commercial. You deserve some peace. Just don’t expect to get excited.