We’ve all heard that common phrase; that an artist’s debut album encompasses a lifetime of their work. But for singer-songwriter, Peter Blachley, that phrase defines his debut album “Nevada Sky.” Blachley wrote the first song for the album when I was just 19 years old as the songwriters of the 60’s and 70’s were inspiring masses with their political and reflective, lyrically focused styles. Inspired by the work of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, Peter began a love affair with songwriting that would span decades, even when left behind for career aspirations that were more business minded. In fact, he put down the guitar when he made the decision to work in the mail-room of the iconic Capital Records building in Los Angeles, working his way to the head of Marketing in his late 20’s. Even while his focus shifted from the creation of music to the marketing of it, he found inspiration in the most basic human experiences; and they run wild on the emotionally introspective tracks that make up this legacy Americana album, “Nevada Sky.” Whether it’s his experience in the political aftermath of a post-Vietnam world or the effortlessness of falling in love with a woman from his past, he wraps his words around every experience and showcases the relevance his music still holds in today’s world.
As you listen to each track you hear the progression of emotions that span an entire lifetime, but never more than on the title track “Nevada Sky” which came to life while he was living in the concrete jungle of New York City dreaming of wide open skies and a less restless lifestyle. He struggles with so many questions we face daily, trading in the hustle and bustle of reaching for the stars for something more authentic and simple. Even while wading through the wisdom and clarity that comes with age, the album remains uniquely cross generational, giving breath to issues that many young adults still face. One of my favorite tracks is “Soho Sunday Morning,” which was another NYC inspiration viewed through the eyes of a father and his want to help a young woman in need. Of the song, Peter says “I was living in SOHO at the time working on the Morrison Hotel Gallery, and I’ll never forget the moment I saw this young girl making her way up the sidewalk while it was raining. She had that issue going on that happens sometime, where she’d clearly lost a heel over the course of the evening. She was struggling walking down the street and trying to hail a cab at the same time, and all I could think about was running out to help her, because she reminded me of my daughter. At the time, my daughter was also living on her own at about 18 years old, and it brought out that side of me that wanted to be very protective of this girl and make sure she made it home okay. By the time we made it out to the street to help her, she finally found a cab and had disappeared… but the emotions left behind were what inspired the song.”
“SOHO Sunday Morning” is one of those songs that speak to the heart of every young person that has ever dreamed of something bigger, like leaving behind your small town for the bright lights of the big city. Even when I first sat down with the album, it was the first song that jumped out at me. It brought me back to being 22 and stepping out on my own in Nashville for the first time. It wasn’t successful and I had to pack it all in a year later and return home feeling like I was a complete failure. “She’d learned from the city that we can’t all grow up early, and everything she wanted would come to her in time, and she would return to New York City…” You learn as you grow older and reflect on those moments, it’s not about failure, it’s about the right time and place in your life.
Another song that thrives in the simplicity of the arrangement is “Salvation Song,” a track largely inspired but the lack of progression we’ve made as a nation moving from one war to the next. Blanchley goes back in time to his tour in Vietnam and compares it to the young men and women that have been shipped off to Iraq, fighting the same demons as he was, but generations later. “I find it interesting that the generation of today face many of the things that my generation did. We’ve progressed so much, but there are some things that have remained the same. We’re still going to war, people are still protesting and speaking their mind about it, there’s still the battle between it being right or wrong.”
Peter continuously captures that generational crossover on so many of these tracks, which became even more apparent when I caught his set in the packed house of the Bluebird Café in Nashville. There were attendees of all different generations, drawn in to the beautiful and very personal storytelling that Peter allowed them, giving them an even deeper insight into the world that he was working to create. Joined by the incredibly talented David Mansfield (who has played with iconic artists like Johnny Cash), they lead us through a journey of “Nevada Sky” that was unforgettable for everyone in attendance. Whether it was a sweet antidote about finally being able to write a love song (“Summer Love”) or his story of reuniting with a lost love (“Angelina”), he’s exactly the kind of artist you’d expect to come out of the 1960’s and 70’s. One that is more concerned with connecting his audience with the music than flash in the pan stage antics. His aim with the release of “Nevada Sky” was to put out music that had something to say, music that had been inspiring to him for many years.
It’s safe to say that Peter has accomplished exactly what he set out to. He’s created a masterfully simplistic album that has a voice, a trend in music that seems to be finally coming back into style, after many years of empty words and synthesized beats taking over even in the most vocal of genres. In my conversation with Peter he praised artists like Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, and the rising popularity of female songwriters like Holly Williams and Ashley Monroe; who consistently push the envelope and give their generation something to think about.
If Peter set out to create a legacy album that spoke to his lifetime, he accomplished it. My generation could learn a lot from the words and experiences presented across every melody and lyric of “Nevada Sky,” not to mention the intoxicating instrumentation provided by the plethora of talented musicians that made up the sound. My advice is to give this album a spin, I mean that quite literally, because I’ve listened to it both digitally and on vinyl. And like most music in the world, the vinyl version will take you back to another place in time. Just the way I imagine Peter envisioned it.
In fact, I was trying to figure out how to write this piece for a couple days, and it wasn’t until I was flying high above the Arizona red rocks, ruminating over the album, that I could finally bring together all the thoughts I wanted to share with you. One thing is certain, if you’re not already on a journey, “Nevada Sky” will make you feel like you are.