Grant Peeples is a muscular, shaved head, scary looking guy, the kind you’d avoid in a bar in case he’s looking for a fight. His music too is muscular and it’s looking for a fight, in this case with the hucksters and moral majority who run his nation. Always on the side of the downtrodden and oppressed, Peeples, over the course of his four albums is a powerful voice telling us what the networks and syndicates won’t.
Punishing The Myth, his third album to be produced by Gurf Morlix kicks against the pricks and punctures the balloon of hypocrisy that populates the American Dream. Peeples sings about outsiders including a lesbian aunt and a revolutionary while he takes a pop at himself and his ilk on the opening song You’re A Slave To Your Imagination where he writes
“You call it art but you’re just jerking off, all you want to do is make a name for yourself, sucking up to owners and promoters, could it be any good if it’s something you sell?”
before going on to say “Yea its true every song is just a compromise, but every now and then I find a word’ll ring true, I hang my hat on a hook I know’ll get um, then I scribble down some crap and I call it a tune.” The irony here is that it’s a rollicking good tune with Sarah Mac trading vocals with Peeples over a wicked bluesy groove with organ and cornet in the driving seat over finely picked electric guitar and that’s true of all of the songs here. Peeples songs are first and foremost eminently listenable and on the face of it Punishing The Myth is an excellent album of country, folk and blues that will please fans of Willie Nelson, Guy Clark, J.J. Cale and Mr. Morlix himself.
Who Woulda Thunk It, the one cover on the album (written by Greg Brown) is another cracking bluesy number with Knopfleresque guitar snaking throughout while the lyrics connect with the overall sense of the album that Americans are sleepwalking to doom, relying on Mastercard and Visa instead of being self reliant. This belief is hammered home by Peeples on the spoken word High Octane Generation where he thunders against the pampered state of present day car owners who rely on the bleeps and alarms on their space age dashboards but who are unable to check their oil. This could have become a Luddite rant but Peeples changes gear to celebrate the automobile as an allegory of the “passions, and ideals that mapped out our interior destinations across the crooked fields of time” before lamenting that owning a car that can park itself appears to be nothing to be ashamed of these days.
Peeples hammers oligarchs and Wall Street in The New American Dream while The Morning After The Coup appears to share The Who’s sentiment of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” I Can’t Imagine Him Carrying a Carbine subverts a father’s greeting to his new born son as he fears he’ll not be fit to defend the revolution and guns feature in She Was a Wildflower as the narrator remembers “watching her swing from the barrel of an M1 rifle.” There’s a militant feel to many of the songs, Peebles says of himself “I’m a vegetarian that watches NASCAR, a tree-hugger that keeps a gun under the seat,” but his recollection of his lesbian aunt “Aunt Lou” has a tender edge to it while acknowledging her bravery.
Peeples ends the album with an excellent live recording, “It’s Too Late to Live In Austin,” that firmly places him in the Texas story telling tradition as he tells of a night in “this myth-ridden city” with vocal support again from Sarah Mac. The highlight of the album however is the dark country duet, The Hanging where he’s joined by Eliza Gilkyson who sings wonderfully on what is a powerful portrait of an execution and in its chorus damns the death penalty. A powerful song on a powerful album.