Peeples’ follow-up to the sinewy folk tales on his last release, Okra and Ecclesiastes, serves to cement his position as a worthy carrier of the torch previously held by the likes of Guy Clark and John Prine. Singing everyday tales of everyday folk Peeples can come across as a bit of a musical chameleon here with various songs reminiscent of those who came before but his writing and delivery is spot on and ensures that he is no mere copycat. Sounding grizzled and wise he delivers songs that rock and songs that are more akin to talking blues with lyrics that are evocative and provocative. Throughout all of this he is ably assisted by his producer and accompanist, the great Gurf Morlix who plays some fine guitar and bass along with banjo, pedal steel and keyboards.
Opening with a cover of Dylan’s Things Have Changed, a slow bluesy groove with some sublime guitar by Morlix, it features a fine vocal appearance from Ruthie Foster. A late (2000) Dylan song Peeples dresses it up in the gospel style of Dylan’s born again period which is in keeping with the biblical references he often uses and it’s one of the best Dylan covers we’ve heard in a long time. Had the remainder of the album continued in this style then we wouldn’t feel short changed. However Peeples changes tack with the second song Patriot Act which places him firmly in the earthy Texas outlaw tradition. Dedicated to Dave Hickey, an author and art critic who recorded some songs in the early seventies and whose volume of short stories provides the album’s title this song is like a time machine for anyone who knows early Guy Clark.
The remainder of the album is delivered in pretty much the same style with gritty vocals and pedal steel guitar predominant although each song has its individual style. It’s a testament to Peeples’ character that he even manages to deliver a cover of eighties new wave band Shriekback’s Gunning For The Buddha as if it was written in a Texan barrelhouse. The gentle paced Market Town is a tremendous portrait of a slave auction with the ugly scenes described delivered with a terrible beauty in the handsome tune and delicate playing. The accordion playing of Joel Guzmen adds a fine filigree here and later on he adds atmosphere to Last Night I Dreamed in Spanish, a song about Peeples’ sojourn in Nicaragua which Willie Nelson would have been proud to have written had he the chance. The wonderful Road To Damascus with some fine banjo and nasty guitar licks from Morlix stomps along as Peeples dissects St. Paul and unveils him as an opportunistic carpetbagger. Sad Naked Woman is a voyeuristic soul search which recalls Terry Allen’s Lubbock On Everything.
The provocative Nigger Lover demonstrates the power of language with Peeples at pains to point out that he ensured Ruthie Foster would approve of its presence here. Ironically scored out on the album cover the N word rings loud on what appears to be an autobiographical account of the travails visited on the young Peeples and how nowadays bigots might temper their words but still harbour the same prejudices. It’s delivered in a world wearied voice with a spare accompaniment and is very much a twin to the recent song by Chip Taylor, Fuck All The Perfect People. This theme of outward respectability covering all sorts of hypocrisy is nailed in the final and solo acoustic song Last Honest Man which references Diogenes’ mocking search for honesty by shinng a lamp in daylight to highlight the futility of it all.
In summary then we have an album that is an excellent example of country folk tales delivered in the style of the extraordinary collection of talents that gathered in Texas in the early seventies. Added to this is the unique and intriguing philosophical viewpoint of Peebles which rails against modern mores and harks back to a simpler time. Even simpler, this is brilliant.