Pete Bernhard is well known to fans of Americana music. His band The Devil Makes Three has spent the better part of the last twenty years at the top of the genre’s “must-see” concert lists. As the group’s guitarist, Pete is known for his unbridled, barn-burning performances and driving roots, rock and bluegrass sound. However, on his latest release listeners are treated to a quieter side of the artist.
“Harmony Ascension Division” is Bernhard’s third solo album. It is a thoughtful and personal project on which the he examines the current statuses and histories of interpersonal relationships. All modern recording studio tapestries have been peeled away and discarded. With a simple and minimalist arrangement of acoustic guitar, bass, and vocals the record feels like the musical equivalent of a private chat with an old friend.
Of the album Pete says, “This record is about friendships, relationships, success, happiness and failure. Harmony. Ascension. Division. Many of these songs are about friends from my early teens and ‘20s so I thought the best way to talk about them would be by playing the way I did back then.”
Stylistically the songs alternate between mellow Country-tinged singer/songwriter fare and slightly funkier Delta blues. Songs like “I Knew You,” “Can’t Find You” and “Waiting for You” are haunted by the ghosts of Folk legends like the late-great John Prine. In the same vein as that mailman philosopher, Pete tells his stories through the smart, simple and sincere observations of an intellectual everyman.
The bluesier tunes on this nine song collection feature some really slick Kaukonen-esque finger picking, jazzy interludes and even a bossa nova rhythm or two. “Land of Milk and Honey” is a great example of Bernhard’s styles and influences converging. The song is one part Hot Tuna and one part “Tangled up in Blue.” “Long Night” is another real high point. Over a funky blues run, the singer sums up life simply with a gospel-like chant, “Some people need drugs (alright), some people need God (alright). Whatever it takes now, to get you through that long night.”
Pete Bernhard’s “Harmony Ascension Division” is available via all major streaming services. To support the release of the album, he is launching a U.S. and international radio campaign and hopes to schedule a series of solo performances around TDM3’s rescheduled tour dates.