Often the most joyous and spirited music comes from professionals playing outside of the gig that pays the bills, whether it's a day job or a full-time band. Wiffer Creek's debut CD, a delightful blend of original material and favorites, provides a case in point. Wiffer Creek sounds like two old friends playing some great songs together in a home studio for the sheer enjoyment of making music--which, in fact, is exactly what this record is.
Wiffer Creek is actually North Chatham singer-songwriters Charles Pettee and Doug Bremseth, who've played acoustic music together (mostly bluegrass-based) for nearly a decade. Bremseth relocated here from Fresno, Calif., to take the banjo seat with Chapel Hill's The Shady Grove Band, for which Pettee served as mandolinist, co-lead singer and chief songwriter for 20 years. Physical problems forced Doug to give up the five-string, but he continues to sing, write and play guitar.
While the cover songs show their influences: Bill Monroe, The Grateful Dead, John Prine and Billy Ed Wheeler, the duo's heart lies in their originals. "Where Else Would We Go?" and "Those Who Seek" demonstrate the growth in Pettee's writing, fueled by the spiritual turn he took after becoming a dad. But his standout song is "Oh, Forefathers," a gem taken by the erstwhile geologist from a rare outcropping--that of bluegrass social commentary. Bremseth proves a more conventional, but no less successful, composer: His instrumental title track is as powerful a piece of music as the classic "Monroe's Hornpipe." Although both vocalists are good, not outstanding, singers, their lovely arrangements and strong musicianship more than compensates.