Peter Veteska & Blues Train – Grass Ain’t Greener on the Other Side | Album Review

Peter Veteska & Blues Train – Grass Ain’t Greener on the Other Side

Self-produced CD

10 songs – 46 minutes

Peter Veteska has established himself as one of the classiest artists in the New York metropolitan area in the past decade, fronting the group formerly known as Peter V & Blues Train and delivering a bluesy mix of big-city R&B and jazz. But the guitarist/vocalist reinvents himself with a new name and new lineup here and delivers a CD that’s just as successful, but shifts closer to the blues root.

The original Blues Train formed in 2013 and made its debut two years later with a self-titled album so good that the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation selected it as its representative to compete at the International Blues Challenge. As good as that one was, people really started taking notice in 2016 with the release of On Track, which earned Peter induction into the New York Blues Hall of Fame.

Major bookings in the tri-state area and two more releases – Running Out of Time and Shaken but Not Deterred – followed in short order, and both were listed in the Top 100 on Roots Music Report in the contemporary blues category with the former peaking at No. 3 on the charts.

Only percussionist Alex D’Agnese remains from the original lineup, but the feel here remains the same – intense and polished throughout thanks to the new members: keyboard player Jeff Levine, who’s recorded and toured with Joe Cocker, Clarence Clemons, the Chambers Brothers and others, and bassist Coo Mo Jhee, who held down the bottom on Veteska’s two prior CDs.

Engineered by Joseph DeMaio at Shorefire Studios in Long Branch, N.J., while a hurricane was forming outdoors, the disc features several guest stars: harp player Mikey Junior, Delaware-based guitarist Roger Girke and Jersey Shore favorite Jen Barnes, all of whom deliver vocals, and Chuck Hearne, who sits in on bass for two numbers.

Mikey’s traditional harp runs open the original, “Am I Wrong Pretty Baby,” a steady shuffle that wonders if the singer’s mistaken in wanting to hold his woman tight, with Peter laying down a solid foundation before launching into a tasty six-string solo mid-tune that yields to Levine to conclusion. Penned by Clyde Otis and most famously recorded by Dinah Washington and Brook Benton, “Baby, You’ve Got What It Takes” follows the same format as Veteska and Barnes trade polished vocals atop by rich, steady bottom.

Peter’s in charge for the set of three originals that follow. A regimented drumbeat kicks off “Running Like a Dog,” a complaint about a woman who’s both demanding and threatening to leave that’s accented by stinging contemporary guitar runs. The pace slows and the arrangement simplifies for “I’ve Been Missing You,” but warms steadily throughout beneath a simple lyrical hook before the uptempo, “You Give Me Loving” blazes throughout.

“Learning the Blues,” a 1955 hit for Frank Sinatra, gets an unhurried, azure overhaul as Peter holds his own emulating Old Blue Eyes on mic before yielding to “Thinking and Drinking,” an uptempo rocker in which Veteska’s doing both in the absence of his women while contemplating what she means to him. A pair of covers — “Heartbreaker,” written by Ahmed Ertegun, recorded by Ray Charles and featuring shared guitar and vocal licks with Girke, and Willie Cobbs’ familiar “You Don’t Love Me,” which is delivered in an extended jam version made famous by the Allman Brothers – lead into the original, blues-rock title cut, “Grass Ain’t Greener on the Other Side,” an urban blues with plenty of six-string fireworks, to bring the disc to a close.

No matter the structure of the band that shares the stage with him, Peter Veteska is one of the most talented, but overlooked artists in the blues world today. One listen to this one proves it!

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