Having abandoned music making for a decade or so, Florida native Grant Peeples has been back with a bit of a bang in the last few years with this new one being the fourth album in the last five years. He’s quite an old style left wing protest singer and if you asked him what he was protesting against, he would answer, as per “Johnny” in The Wild One, “Whaddayagot?”. Greed, selfishness and man’s inhumanity to man are all firmly in his sights as he looks for The Last Honest Man, but there’s a suspicion that his rage has grown weary over time. It’s still there, but there’s an air of weariness with the fight in some of these songs. One of the three covers is Dylan’s
Things Have Changed from 1999, with its refrain that “I used to care but things have changed”, and that seems to set the mood.
Grant sings in a very conversational tone that sounds like a barroom polemicist telling you the way it is – with warmth and good humour but nonetheless determined to make his critical stance clear. At his best he’s very funny, kind of like a Floridan version of Alexei Sayle back in the day, full of wit that bites deep. There’s not too much of that in evidence on this new record, though the song about the pole dancer who discovers Jesus (and realises that, to pay the bills, she’ll have to go Pole Dancing To Gospel Hymns) shows he still has a sharp eye for absurdity. More typical of this album, though, is N....r Lover, a song taken at a particularly world weary pace about all those rednecks back in his school days who would beat him up for his leftish ways. Nowadays they wouldn’t dare use the N word, but they’re still the same and still the enemy.
The sweetest song by far is his first song about the years he spent on an island off Nicaragua. Last Night I Dreamed in Spanish features some beautiful accordion playing from Joel Guzman as Grant recaptures images from his Caribbean days that he thought he’d left behind completely. Gurf Morlix is the producer on this album and he plays some typically deft guitar that puts a bit of bounce into things, a bit of sweetness to balance Peeple’s straight-talking rawness. A further highlight is when Ruthie Foster joins him on Things Have Changed. I haven’t come across her music yet, but on this evidence she’s some singer and her presence certainly gives this song some extra oomph. Otherwise, I reckon
Sad Naked Woman might be one of the most powerful songs he’s written; the scene he describes is kind of inconsequential – two people parting after a one-night stand, it seems – but he finds a bleak truth in the situation that made me wince. This album seems to be making waves for him a bit though I’d say the earlier album that I know,
Pawnshop, is just as strong. He’s a good man to have around, is Grant Peeples, writing the sort of songs that folk singers should write.
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