The ghost of Jimmie Rogers

Roots musician Petunia is not a bells-and-whistles kind of guy.

"Less is better with songs and in most aspects of life," says the songwriter and guitarist during a telephone interview from Vancouver, B.C.

"I've been a poet, moviemaker and painter. Whatever you're doing at the time, do it well. It will serve you when you go on to the next thing," Petunia says. "Just because you're flippin' burgers at McDonald's doesn't mean you're not going to use something from the experience later."

He finds the advice even truer of his music: Everything he hears comes back around to him again.

"Bill Monroe said you only have to hear a certain kind of music once to understand it," he says. "He was a bluegrass musician, but the statement applies to any genre."

Petunia and his band, the Vipers, will present their take on Jimmie Rodgers- and Hank Williams-style country music — complete with rockabilly, swing and yodeling — at 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 28, at Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar, 35 N. Main St., Ashland.

"The old-time music by Williams, the Carter Family ... it's just a springboard for our music," Petunia says. He won't reveal his age or why he calls himself Petunia, saying "it's mostly influenced by Americana."

The group's newest album, an eponymous collection of songs released on vinyl in late 2011 by Los Angeles-based, independent label Trapline Productions, is receiving raves up and down the West Coast and in the U.K.

"We've got a good record there," Petunia says. "Vinyl sounds better to me than CDs. It's warmer. I'm a throwback in a lot of ways. I think we were duped when they told us CDs are better."

"Petunia and the Vipers" was recorded at Sunset Sound and Sound Factory in L.A.

"There's a long lineage of great people who have recorded there," Petunia says. And many of them — from the look of the clients list posted on the studios' website.

"And the BBC is playing us," he says. "But we're largely unrecognized in Canada. Americans have been influenced by Americana. I guess the lower 48 is tuned into that sound."

Petunia predicts four of the songs on his new album will be hits.

" 'Cricket Song' is a lush, love song," he says. "There's yodeling and an excellent steel-guitar arrangement. 'The Ballad of Handsome Ned' stands out as a good piece of songwriting. The band really came through and captured the mood. It's the story of a rockabilly musician who regularly packed the joint at The Cameron House in Toronto. He was on the rise to stardom when he died of a heroin overdose. The song is spooky, but not cheesy or corny.

" 'Maybe Baby Amy' is straight-up rockabilly with all of the influences of punk rock and rock 'n' roll, and 'Mercy' is a well-written moonshine, preacher, gospel 'rav-up' about your soul. Again the band is awesome on this one."

Petunia's band features electric guitarist Stephen Nikleva, lap-steel guitarist Jimmy Roy, drummer Marc L'Esperance and upright bassist Patrick Metzger.

The cover charge for Friday's show at Alex's is $5. Call 541-482-8818 or see

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