Masked, tasseled, and often shirtless beneath a ten gallon cowboy hat, the mysterious singer Orville Peck emerged from the darkness like a Lone Ranger for a new era to salvage country music and return it to its heyday of booming baritones, brooding guitar lines, haunting lyrics, and sparkling atmosphere. Hints of Bobbi Gentry mixed with Roy Orbison as buffalo gals (and guys) come out tonight. Peck’s love for 90s era Nash-country pop is on display as well with a Shania Twain & Peck duet on “Legends Never Die.” Show Pony comes on the heels of Peck’s breakout debut Pony (Sub Pop 2019). Due to COVID-19 pandemic related industry wide shifts, the EPs’ release was delayed with multiple possible release dates mentioned before silence fell over Peck’s camp only for a sudden appearance on August 14th caught fans off guard and left them pleasantly surprised.
“Summertime” establishes the tone by not wavering from what is now Peck’s signature single note electrical guitar plucks echoing in the vastness of his band’s cinematic country arrangement. “Asking where the time’s gone, dreaming with the lights on,…, catch ‘em on the run, they punish those who love young,” warbles Peck as he peppers couplets throughout that dance between wisdom and whimsy. “No Glory in the West” follows with a campfire acoustic guitar and a nearly spoken word piece builds into a moody croon confronting mystique and what happens when a legend’s grandeur is tarnished. “What’s a boy to do, hit the road with a dollar or two, haunted by what he knows he can’t do,” Peck sings in resignation. Peck’s baritone bombast returns on “Drive Me Crazy,” a lamenting soundtrack for the long haul truckers left lonely on the road tonight, “breaker breaker, break hearts 10-4 daddy oh,…, you always said you’d drive me crazy,…, so hands on the wheel and lets drive, buckle up and drive me.” “Kids” prompts a return to quiet reflection as Peck admits, “and to my surprise neither one of us has died.” Taking notes on arrangement on late-90s era Nash-country with a nod and a wink Peck duets with Shania Twain on “Legends Never Die” cementing himself in the modern country music legend’s story. There’s no irony here, Peck is as sincere in his performance here as ever and the resultant track becomes one of Show Pony’s highlights.
Show Pony closes with a cover of Bobbi Gentry’s “Fancy,” in many ways the most intriguing track of this collection as it bends the arrangement to highlight the dark underbelly of its lyrics. Nick Cave comes to mind as Peck growls and spits lyrics full of venom, She handed me a heart-shaped locket that said, To thine own self be true, and I shivered as I watched a roach crawl across, the toe of my high-heeled shoe, it sounded like somebody else, was talkin’, askin’, mama what do I do?, Just be nice to the gentlemen, Fancy, and they’ll be nice to you.
On Show Pony, Orville Peck continues to build on the legacy of an instant legend. Masked, fringed, and brooding Peck is posed to ride into the sunset, to disappear leaving his myth only to grow in his absence. Let’s hope he releases a few more classic full lengths before that inevitable day. In the meantime, however, Show Pony is a welcome treat, adding to his lore until the next installment in the Peck’s catalogue appears. https://www.orvillepeck.com