Punishing the Myth
Like many of us from the South, Grant Peeples is a walking, talking contradiction. The man loves lunatic poets and fast cars, and he’s an unabashed liberal, but he’s not coming to take your guns away. He’s got plenty of his own. The one thing that Grant does that sets him apart from his contemporaries is his honesty. Brutal, direct, rhyming honesty, or as he puts it on this new release, “mixing trouble with metaphor.”
And he does this right off the bat on the first track, You’re a Slave To Your Imagination, a blues featuring the sassy vocals of Sarah Mac that takes the classic country duet style from “he said/ she said” to “left brain/right brain.” “You call it art but you’re just jerking off,” says one side of his head, to which the other side replies, “I got my songs and a sense of intervention…I know the score.”
The eleven songs are a poetic mix of styles: rock, folk, spoken word, acoustic ballads and bluesy guitar tunes, produced once again by Austin’s Gurf Morlix. Gurf has the knack for putting just the right touches on the music he produces, although I have to say that the echoes he placed on the brilliant spoken word piece High Octane Generation are, to me, superfluous and distract from the performance. This is a small complaint, though, given his body of work with Grant, Lucinda Williams and so many others. After hearing the wealth of clever, intricate wordplay on these songs, it comes as no surprise that Peeples is a Roger Miller fan. You can tell that he rubs the lyrics of the songs on his sleeve until they gleam in just the right way. After working his way through social issues like capital punishment, homosexuality, war, equality and revolution, he finishes up the record with It’s Too Late to Live in Austin, a “shoulda been here when” tale about the live music capital of the world. Peeples, a recent transplant from Florida to Austin, reminds us that songs are still being written and sung in Austin….and even more than that, that songs happen everywhere.
Grant has been refining his sound over his past five records and his work here is among his sharpest. At his best, Peeples recalls Fred Eaglesmith, Butch Hancock and occasionally, every once in a while, Kris Kristofferson. Because fast cars, big guns and fried chicken and okra are not the sole province of conservative rednecks and because compassion and empathy aren’t just for tie-died wearing hippies, we need someone like Grant Peeples.