Common Ground – featuring husband and-wife duo Dusty Peterson and Nikki Herzog-Peterson – expanded their Great Falls duo to a four-piece, and were able to flesh out the sound of their original tunes, although they stick to-tried-and-true covers in performance.
With their first album they have stretched out with six originals and two covers. Arrangements are built around Nikki’s powerful and soulful mid-range alto that goes anywhere she wants it to. She credits Grace Slick, Alanis Morissette, and the styles of Little Big Town among her influences.
Nikki plays acoustic guitar and sings lead; Dusty adds terrific lead guitar and sings, too. Richie Kapphan, bass, and Logan Darlington, drums, fill out the band. Guests are drummers (and engineer) Matt Johnson and Luke Miller; Miller and keyboardist Lonnie Schmitt help out on a nice version of Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”
Nikki’s soaring vocals are backed by Dusty’s grinding electric guitar on the couple’s straight-ahead rocker, “Washed Away” (“I’m here for you, I came to heal”). Her pop-rock snapper, “How It Should Be,” is an infectious love song with a cool hook.
In Jeff Boley’s aching “Leave a Message,” Nikki delivers a bitter comeuppance to an old lover, who wants to re-unite at Christmastime. Nikki says she first heard Boley’s previously-unrecorded song on a demo when she was 17; she finally tracked him down 18 years later to see if she could record it. It’s a searing and emotional delivery, and when Boley heard it, he said it gave him goosebumps.
The couple’s title tune, “Strong,” shows how the power of love keeps each other upbeat about life.
Common Ground performs a knock-out cover of David Crowder’s monster gospel song, “Lift Your Head, Weary Sinner.” Miller uses mallets on the tom, underpinning the piercing fuzzed-up guitar and throbbing bass. Nikki’s compelling lead vocals take over, then the dynamics ramp up for the chorus. Outstanding!
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– Mariss McTucker