Chuck Pelletier is a truly brilliant singer-songwriter and his new CD Flight Times is, in every way, an astonishing achievement. From the opening chords of this extraordinary new song collection, it is clear that Pelletier invokes his music with the double magic of a burnished, accessible presentation and a deeply inflected inner narrative. Every song is both a self-contained portrait and also an essential statement in the album’s larger arc. Indeed, Pelletier’s music is inscribed always by a careful tension between execution and illumination, between the songwriter’s precision and the singer’s soul. The title track, for instance, is an elegant summation of the album’s first half, songs mainly about discovery. Yet it is also about the ways in which the unknown and imaginative experience become the substance of daily life. Tracks like “How to Play Guitar and be Cool,” Amazing Things,” and “Dream Vacation” chart new territory for the mid-tempo pop form, even as they affectionately recall a certain singer-songwriter tradition. And “Daddy, Will You Love Me?” is proof that ballads are forged in the heart. These refined, ebullient songs would be enough to sustain a lesser artist for an entire album, but Pelletier’s writing is never without risk or surprise. “She Ain’t Coming Back Again” marks a transitional moment and is, in fact, the first in a suite of songs exploring the unpredictable turns of fate that sharpen the emotional horizons of memory and love. Here, Pelletier duets with Ayvee, whose empowering female voice transforms the Urban sound into stark, confessional poetry. “Arlington,” “Love Me Anyway,” and “Not the Way Home” represent the darker tones in Pelletier’s palette. And while his lyrics observe the complexities of modern life, the melodies open onto the vast universal space our shared world. “I Came the Long Way” and “Bouncing Day” close out the collection, but as with any well-made story, they look back on the emotional journey with a wistful eye and an understated optimism. Certainly, names like Paul Davis, Dave Mason, Andrew Gold, David Gates, John Denver, Marc Cohn, David Gray, and Jason Mraz connect us to Pelletier’s music, but the revelation here is that Pelletier has created a language entirely, unforgettably, luminously his own.
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Reviewed by Carey Scott Wilkerson