Now Playing: Grant Peeples’ ‘Bad Wife’

Image courtesy of Grant Peeples

Grant Peeples is a Tallahassee, Florida-based singer-songwriter and musician. Peeples is presently preparing for the release of his 10th album, Bad Wife, dropping February 14th. But first, for those not yet familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.

Grant Peeples

Image courtesy of Grant Peeples

According to his official website, Grant Peeples describes himself as a “tree-hugger that watches NASCAR, and [a] Buddhist with a gun below the seat.” He is perhaps best known for his “socio-political tunes” and “heart-gigging ballads.” His rockin’ resume features several previous platters including 9 studio releases, three live recordings and a pair of poetry books.

His most recent release is 2018’s Settling Scores Vol. II. Peeples tours the US and Netherlands solo and performs at festivals with his band The Peeples Republik. He’s a regular at the famous The Woody Guthrie Folk Festival and has won the Focus Foundation Award for Creative Excellence.

Signature sound

His material and perhaps even his signature sound, a blend of Americana and folk, is impacted by his living on a little island “off the Miskito Coast of Nicaragua for eleven years.” His live shows are said to be a mixture of “funny stuff and not funny stuff.” He is not a fan of writing or performing love songs as a rule and has a reputation for playing “a few ‘off-color’ tunes.”

Bad Wife

Peeples discussed the album recently on social media saying: “This album is a personal collection of songs I’ve been gathering over the years. All were written by women I’ve worked with in one way or another during my tenure in this loopy damn enterprise known as ‘the music biz.’”

He added: “As I began the project, I didn’t go looking for songs; they had already found me. A woman has produced three of the records I have made. All my records have been studded with women players.

But this one, by design, has none. This is all guys trying, as it were, to carry the mail. Nor did I rewrite any storylines or change any pronouns in order to square with my gender; i.e., [the] first line of the first song is: ‘When the lights are off, I need a man to touch…’.”

Peeples leads the way on guitar and vocals. He is occasionally backed by other artists including producer Gurf Morlix (bass, keys, guitars, and background vocals), Rick Richards (drums), and Lee Elders (violin).

Track by track

This often stark 11-track album opens on “Crying Out.” It’s a soft, effective opener to this thematic set of songs. This is his faithful cover of a Carry Elkin song.  The second selection is “3:52 a.m.” This is a deceptively strong Phoebe Blume composition recalling the personal significance of this specific time.

Next is “Unsustainable” It’s a simplistic, unsurprising song by Eliza Gilkyson that luckily has an old school show tune feel to it.  “Slow Dancer” is a bit more clever. Written by Caroline Spence and Stephanie Lambring it focuses on a topic that Peeples is not known to usually perform and is therefore refreshing.

“Iris” follows. It’s a cover of a tune by Telisha Williams and a tuneful tip of the hat to a woman Williams felt was important in her life.  The titular “Bad Wife”, composed by Ali Holder, apparently stirred up some controversy. Peeples recalls:

“Even before the release of the record there [was] some…blow-back…from some quarters about the title, ‘Bad Wife.’ Of course, this has come without said persons having actually heard the song. I have no pretense of defense, or even an explanation, to anyone who hasn’t heard it, other than to say that the very choice to use it (a title from a track on the record itself) was intended to jiggle the conventional equilibrium. I don’t view this as poetic license, but rather as a kind of poetic obligation.” It features Red Young on keys.

“Venezuela” is a somewhat sad song written by Dayna Kurtz. While Peeples’ vocals remain consistent and unchanging, there is something slightly different about this particular piece that makes it somehow stand on its own.  Next, Peeples’ presents his performance of Alicia McGovern’s “Keep Trying”. It contains some nice contemporary aspects to it that make it work.

Rebekah Pulley’s song “Rich Man” follows. The song has a familiar feel to it but Peeples’ recording prevents one from putting a finger on what it is reminiscent of for the most part. It’s highlighted by Danny Goddard on guitar.

The official album endnote is “Good Actress” written by Sarah Mae. It’s an a cappella number which makes it stand out from the rest.  The final cut is listed simply as “Bonus Track.” No credits are listed under this track and yet ironically it’s one of the best bits on the disc. It’s got a great traditional folk song-story feel to it.

Overall, the album is exactly what it’s said to be: Peeples’ performances of personally selected songs written by women he knows. They are songs that one way or another emotionally struck and stuck with him since he first heard them performed live. Some are more deserving of inclusion than others, of course, yet they all work well together in the musical “big picture.”

Peeples adds: “[W]hile I am reasonably certain that, incredibly, in the history of recorded music no male artist has ever made an album of women’s songs, the intent here was not to earn that distinction. Instead, the record release marks the hundredth anniversary of American women wrestling their right to vote from a Constitution historically reluctant to issue or grant the very equality it so precisely extols. Therefore the record is a tip of the hat to the courage and fortitude behind the movement that overcame the historic prejudice and inequality that was set forth on this continent by our revered foreFATHERS.”

So check out Grant Peeples’ Bad Wife because the work is quietly “Crying Out” for attention.

Image courtesy of Grant Peeples