Forty Watt Bulb
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Forty Watt Bulb


Band Americana Folk


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"Shovel's Length Short CD Review"

Acoustic guitars, banjos, mandolins; small towns, front porches and coffee shops; families laughing by a barbecue or lounging near a campfire and grandparents dancing at the town square--all of these sounds and images are encompassed in 17 tracks from Forty Watt Bulb's latest release, "Shovel's Length Short."

Many of Forty Watt Bulb's songs would be fairly standard folk/pop/ acoustic songs if it weren't for Drew Peterson's passionate vocal delivery, which sets "Shovel's Length Short" above its peers.

The album covers a wide range of territory, ranging from the Cities 97-esque pop-rock of "Uncle" to the toe-tappin' hoedown stylings of "Jesus Loves my Shotgun" (where you might feel out of place not having a piece of straw hanging from your lip) all the way to track 16, "Lenore," which is more of a story than simply a lyric, in which Peterson croons about a Frogtown hooker.

The disc's production and packaging are also noteworthy. Sonically, this album is flawless. The cardboard case, with a removable lyric sheet, is also a nice touch, showing that these guys have enough pride in their music to take the extra step to make sure it's presented in a unique and professional manner. AG
- Rift Magazine

"Shovel's Length Short CD Review"

Shovels Length Short is a satisfying cigarette and a cold one after a hard days work on a small farm that no longer exists. In other words, in this innocuous age, songs like “Laramie,” “Tie Me Up” and “Lenore” give soft-palmed Americans a bitter but enticing taste of hard work. Without today’s flailing economy, 40 Watt Bulb’s rural rock might only give a digitized simulation of Depression-era folk music. However, as more people become underemployed, our culture embraces this band’s brand of narrative songs about blue-collar life. Still, 40 Watt Bulb wears many hats—not just a mesh seed cap or a crumpled Stetson.

The clipped and syncopated lyrics bob and weave through the swing of the guitar, banjo, mandolin and bass notes. The coarse vocals convey emotions that a jaded audience wants to experience. A few songs out of the CD’s 17 tracks, “Uncle” and “Tattoo,” miss their mark due to cliché or catchiness, and roots rock haters need not listen. But, if you want mostly acoustic, Springsteen-like narratives, you’ve found the right album.

— Shari Jacobs
- Ripsaw News

"Shovel's Length Short CD Review"

An eclectic slice of Americana that ranges from melodic pop and twang-heavy story-telling, to bluegrass and mid-west rural rock with all the narrative quality and sincerity of traditional country. Your movements will range from toe-tapping to foot-stomping...

Aside from the fact that the music is great, the exceptional lyrical writing propels this release into the "very good" category. Uncle is a banjo fueled, bluegrassy come-on line. "I ask for your number / sarcastically you yell it's in the book / you being an angel and all / the Bible is where I decided to look." Quirky, tuba heavy love song Good Gravy has got to have a place in a Quentin Tarentino flick somewhere. Dark, southern rebel rock and filtered vocals fit the haunting attitude of Butcher's Union ending with a line about why there should be coins covering the eyes of the dead - to pay the boatman to cross the river. "Two silver coins should be laid / to make sure the boatman gets paid his due / he's in the union too." Rockabilly motivational speech Piss & Vinegar urges you to gather up your shit and get out of Dodge. Grandpa used to beat Grandma, and she says it's your own fault if you stay. Songs about a pickup game of 3 on 3 football as kids, Three Monkey Rush, tongue-in-cheek looks at our society, Jesus Loves My Shotgun, "If God were here, I know He'd join the NRA", the importance of a good pair of Shoes and a ramblin' cover of Tom Waits' Goin' Out West is thrown in for good measure.

Forty Watt Bulb? More like a forty watt bulb you're used to that's been replaced with a seventy-five watt one. It's brighter than you're used to... -

"Forty Watt Bulb"

It’s just past 7:00 in Narrows’ Saloon and the Timber Wolves game is underway. The band shuffles in, promptly orders drinks, lights a few cigarettes and we’re off and running. The site is a stark contrast to the professional appearance presented on their album, and to be honest, they look more like roadies than anything else. But that seems to be the whole idea. “We’re just a bunch of chuckleheads” claims guitarist, BJ Haldy.

With influences ranging from Townes Van Zandt, to Tom Waits to Van Morrison, you can rest assured these self-professed “chuckleheads” know their stuff. But that’s not to say they’re pretentious, or self-enamored in any way. 40 Watt Bulb is about as down to earth as you can get, and it’s something the band takes great pride in.

Twelve tracks into 40 Watt Bulb’s debut LP is a cut called “Jesus Loves My Shotgun.” But this not a gimmick. This is not a mistake. This is not a ploy to pander to the hillbilly sensibilities of Toby Keith-loving fans everywhere. No, it’s much more than that.

Granted a song title like Jesus Loves My Shotgun may sound like an Allen Jackson B-side to one of his greatest hits albums, in all actuality, the song is about hypocrisy and paints a poignant portrait of everything that’s wrong with society today. The song concludes with the lines: “a good man once said ‘you without sin cast the first stone’ I guess that makes me a liar for all the little stones I’m throwin.”

To set the record straight, 40 Watt Bulb is not a country band, but they’re also not a rock band. “We don’t like to limit ourselves into thinking we have to sound or play a particular way. That really cuts down on creativity” explains BJ.

Regardless of the band’s aspirations or leanings towards a particular genre of music, one thing has remained consistent for 40 Watt Bulb… their fans. Rarely does an up and coming Minnesota act see such love. “Minnesota is such a music-loving state. I honestly think Minneapolis is an overlooked music scene, I mean, depending on what venue we’re going to, it’s not what you’re expecting a lot of times… a lot of the booking people are so nice and supportive” says lead singer, Andrew Peterson.

With friends and fans alike willing to take a share in the responsibility that goes along with maintaining a talented group of musicians, there’s no telling how long the band’s carousel ride of success will continue. One would suppose that after all, the proverbial sky is the limit. “We’re working right now with our radio promotion and we’ve seen quite a bit of success out in New York, Oregon and California and ideally we want to get some tours out to those areas to back up the good radio we’ve had” says BJ.

Opening up the packaging for Shovel’s Length Short reveals a smartly presented layout and convenient cover sleeve that houses an impressive lyrics booklet, something most bands wouldn’t mess with, but 40 Watt Bulb considers mandatory. “When we were crunching numbers on how to produce the thing, we really wanted to make sure the lyrics got on there because I think Drew’s writing on the album is the main selling point of the band” says BJ. “We just wanted to give the best product possible to our fans” adds Andrew.

Having only been together for a year and a half, this dynamic duo from Big Lake, MN have achieved what most bands only dream about… a masterfully recorded album. Shovel’s Length Short is laden with thick production values and crystal clear vocals. But the remarkable thing is, the band practically raced through the recording process at a speed that would impress even Jack White’s simplistic leanings. “We actually recorded the whole album in three days” explains BJ.

40 Watt Bulb doesn’t waste time raising insane amounts of money to record. They don’t toil laboriously for six months at a time trying to tweak a single song because at heart, all they want to do is play, even if that means switching it up and doing some fan favorites.

“We cover that one Bruce Springsteen song, I’m on Fire, only we start in this real hillbilly, ho-down way. We’ll also do Shook Me All Night Long, some AC DC, only in more of a Bluegrass style. We do some funny stuff like that… [but] now and then we fall into a trap of playing for a bar full of people who want to dance to Leonard Skynard, so sometimes you have to deliver a few cover tunes or else the beer bottles start flying” jokes BJ.

But back to the present. The atmosphere of the saloon has changed. The Timber Wolves game is getting good now. The bar regulars are traveling down that drunken path towards raucous insanity. Cheers and curses float across the room and become one in a series of jumbled outbursts. The food and drinks the band has ordered arrives not a moment too soon and provides a nice respite from the veritable game of twenty questions RIFT is playing.

The mood has lightened considerably since out initial sit-down, and before we know it, our conversation has expanded to include opinions about - Rift Magazine

"Forty Watt Bulb Doesnt Fall Short with Bright New Album"

It isn’t often that a band is so convincing in their music that every song sounds like an autobiography. It’s even less often that a band can do this with an eclectic range of purpose and lyrics across 17 tracks.

Yet the authentic down-home acoustic sounds, extremely genuine vocals of Andrew Peterson, and the intelligent and exceptionally entertaining lyrics make Forty Watt Bulb’s album “Shovel’s Length Short” an outstanding compilation of individual biographies anyone can identify with.

While maintaining a decidedly country sound, the music is as eclectic as is possible for a roots country band to put out. At times, the music seems perfect for a soundtrack of childhood memories in its playfulness on tracks like “Good Gravy,” “Three Monkey Rush” or “Jesus Loves My Shotgun.”

Other times, it is deep and pensive while meandering through a gentle waltz over serious reflection, as heard on the title track, “Shovel’s Length Short,” or the delicate yearning on the traditional “Cold Ground.”

And even yet, on other tracks like “Uncle” and “Baby Blue,” there is a distinctly melodious pop sound with ferociously infectious hooks. The band has a complete sound with an entire assortment of musical feelings and emotions.

To pull this off, Forty Watt Bulb employs a full range of acoustic instruments you may not be used to. Besides Peterson’s unmistakable voice, the band includes up to seven musicians on the album, including a banjo, mandolin, tuba, bass, guitars and the ever-popular rusty gas cans.

Each instrument has its place and fulfills its role in perfect balance while providing a touch of twang that is necessary for the rootsy feel of many of the tracks. Not one instrument overpowers another or performs any less or more than its necessary function. Even the rusty gas cans take their place as the best use of everyday objects since Russ Kunkel’s cardboard boxes on Jackson Browne’s album “Running On Empty.”

Not only does the music strike all the right chords, but the lyrics are a brilliant compliment. Forty Watt Bulb is a group of storytellers with the perfect voice for it in Peterson. The stories are as aptly versatile as the music.

While delightfully humorous lines from “Uncle” are intelligently written, the lamenting and nostalgic tones of songs like “Shovel’s Length Short” are just as well written and enjoyable. Not surprisingly, the childlike themes of “Three Monkey Rush” are effective in bringing you back to a simpler age, yet carefully thought out and painstaking in their attention to detail.

Even if this style of music normally seems too old-fashioned for you, this may be the band to make you reconsider. If you have even the slightest craving for music with strong connections to the nostalgia that comes with growing up, and you somewhat enjoy authentic, well-done twang, Forty Watt Bulb has a full load for you in “Shovel’s Length Short.”

Jon Fasselius
NI Music Reviewer
- The Northern Iowan


Adds a Touch of Style To Any Room EP - 2003
Shovel's Length Short LP - 2004
Snivel LP - 2007



Silver Creek Township historian Jimmy The Tree Guy estimates that Forty Watt Bulb has been performing for around 5 years, though he admits that this is an educated guess at best and the true origin of the band cannot be accurately pin-pointed due to certain factors beyond scientific control. Miraculously enough the band continues to somehow tread water and limp along all the while remaining hopeful and steadfast in their quest to find a good paying gig that also includes free beer. Despite a complete financial management festoon and a seemingly unexplainable revolving door of musicians, founding members Drew Peterson and BJ Haldy are totally living the dream.

Drew Peterson was heading into his 30th year and after a third of a century of floating around and not really doing anything he was biding his time bartending at a local watering hole. BJ Haldy met Peterson at said watering hole as he would frequent the establishment to help ease the pain of his wasted private education and crappy furnace cleaning job. The two would often talk music and Haldy would often shamelessly mention the fact that he once totally rocked lower St. Paul in a crappy metal band.