Peter One: storied Nashville-via-Ivory Coast artist returns with first album in decades (new video)
Originally from the French-speaking West African country Ivory Coast, Peter One was once one of the most popular acts in his home country. In 1985, he and musical partner Jess Sah Bi released their now-classic debut album Our Garden Needs Its Flowers, which masterfully fused the multi-continental influences Peter was hearing on the radio, including African pop, French pop, and American folk and country. The duo remained popular into the early 1990s, when the BBC used their song "African Chant" as theme music the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Due to political unrest in his home country, Peter moved to the United States in the '90s, and worked as a nurse, remaining out of the public eye. He first moved to New York, then Delaware, and then ended up in Nashville, home of the country and folk music that Peter so clearly loved. Not much was heard from him until 2018, when Awesome Tapes From Africa reissued Our Garden Needs Its Flowers. The reissue was met with acclaim, including from Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, and it gained him some famous fans like Jason Isbell. The reissue's success eventually led to Peter re-starting his music career for the first time in decades, and in 2022, he ended up opening for Isbell, who said to Rolling Stone:
When you hear Peter One singing, it sounds like he’s singing from a place that is not commercialized. He’s singing something he really means. And one thing that strikes me about him onstage, and I’ve seen him quite a few times now, is that you can tell this man has performed many times for many people. He’s extremely comfortable; he’s in control of the room; he’s in control of the dynamics; and you feel like you’re seeing somebody who is a legendary singer.
Peter, now 67, is now set to release his first new album since re-starting his career, Come Back To Me, on May 5 via Verve Forecast (pre-order). Peter co-produced the album with Matt Ross-Spang (who's also worked with Isbell), and it features other impressive musicians, including Wilco's Pat Sansone, Wilco/Uncle Tupelo's Ken Coomer, Calexico's Paul Niehaus, and Allison Russell, the last of whom sings on recent single "Birds Go Die Out Of Sight (Don't Go Home)." As on Our Garden, he sings in English, French, and the African language Guro.
Tomorrow, Peter releases new single and opening track "Cherie Vico," but first we're premiering a live session video for the song. It features Peter backed by a live band (Ken Coomer on drums, The Raconteurs/The Dead Weather's Jack Lawrence on bass, Luke Schneider on pedal steel, Gusti Escalante on keys, and Josh Harper on guitar) and multiple backup singers (including Erin Rae, Todd Day Wait, and Kyshona Armstrong) and it captures the same unique appeal as his classic debut, beautifully fusing the rhythms and harmonies of African pop music with the tender warmth of Nashville country-folk. To reiterate what Jason Isbell said best, you really do feel like you're seeing somebody who is a legendary singer, even if you were unfamiliar with Peter's music before now. It's a great song and a stunning video, and you can check it out below.
Peter recently performed at Big Ears Festival (where David Byrne was reportedly in attendance during his set), and he makes his Grand Ole Opry debut on Friday (4/14). He has other upcoming shows after that, including another supporting Jason Isbell. All dates are listed below.
And here's the first single with Allison Russell, as well as the live session video for that one:
And in case you've never heard it, stream Our Garden Needs Its Flowers:
Come Back To Me Tracklist
Staring Into The Blues
On My Own
Je E Moi Le Piano
Birds Go Die Out of Sight
Peter One -- 2023 Tour Dates
April 14 - Opry, Nashville, TN
May 6 - The Blue Room, Nashville, TN
May 15 - Royal Albert Hall, London, UK
May 16 - Third Man Blue Basement, London, UK
Jun 24 - Red Wing Roots, Mt Solon, VA
Jun 25 - Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, MI (supporting Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit)
Sep 23 - Pilgrimage Festival, Franklin, TN
Oct 8 - Rebels & Renegades Festival, Monterey, CA