Wild Oats Records, based in Nashville, has an impressive talent roster for a small, grassroots label. Touting a wide variety of seasoned performers ranging from blues guitarist Eddie Kirkland to erstwhile Smithereens frontman Pat DiNizio, Wild Oats also features archive releases from legends like Johnny Paycheck and Townes Van Zandt. Now add to that list singer-songwriter Peter Adzima, whose promising Wild Oats debut was just released earlier this year.
What first strikes the listener is how closely Adzima evokes James Taylor, in his warm vocal style and in his general, laid-back musical vibe, but there’s a heartfelt ache in Adzima’s singing that more closely resembles the tenuous veracity of Country Joe McDonald. Tossing all comparisons aside, however, a closer listen to Adzima’s deceptively breezy tunes betrays a singularly monsoon-battered, castaway soul. His introspective, meditative songs etch out a territory all their own, from the gentle reflection on love lost of “Fall in July” to the painfully ponderous, suicidal first-person narrative of “Leaving on a Dream.”
While the most optimal setting for hearing these songs is certainly a seaside coffeehouse, Leave a Pearl does benefit from a strong group of backing musicians and the fine production of country music veteran Steve Haggard. Adzima’s richly told tales are adorned throughout with an appealing blend of woodwinds, mandolin, fiddle, slide guitar, and tastefully spare keyboards, but the supporting instrumentation never distracts the listener from the songs themselves.
With such nice, tuneful music surrounding the familiar struggles of drunkards and loners found within Peter Adzima’s lyrics, it’s clear that their intent is a healing, common ground. As tattered and torn as these songs find their subjects, Leave a Pearl still comes across as a pleasant listen for a casual Sunday afternoon, but one that lingers on the patiently attuned ear with the reward of a bittersweet, life-affirming drama. In short, this one comes in like a lamb, and then goes out with the lamb and the lion walking hand-in-hand.