Grant Peeples

REVIEW: Grant Peeples’ “A Murder of Songs” expresses grief and outrage for our nation


Grant Peeples’ aptly titled A Murder of Songs expresses grief and outrage for our nation

It’s a trying, upsetting time for our nation. Whether you seek the news or not, it finds you, and, when it does, you brace yourself. How do you handle it? In his latest album, A Murder of Songs, contemporary folk artist Grant Peeples embraces the ugliness in the headlines, confronts the truth and doesn’t hold back. Aware of the absurdity that surrounds us day in and day out, Peeples uses humor and well-crafted cynicism, uniting his like-minded listeners with refreshing, good-ol’ protest songs.

With a voice reminiscent of Willie Nelson and at times Steve Earle, Peeples preaches like a morbid Randy Newman, and continually switches gears. He sounds like Pete Seeger on “Revolutionary Reel,” Bob Dylan on “Dear Sadie” and The Dubliners on the tongue-in-cheek yet disturbingly real “Insurrection Song (January 6).”

Listening to A Murder of Songs, I like to think Peeples writes the kinds of songs Springsteen would produce if he didn’t have as politically divided a fan base. Peeples doesn’t care if he pisses anybody off. He isn’t happy about the way things are, and he doesn’t mind wearing that on his sleeve. There are many examples here. One of the most striking is “Liberal with a Gun,” an alarming, depressing track tragically appropriate for the reality of what this nation has become.

In “Let’s Start Killing Each Other,” Peeples sings, “It’s like both sides have gone insane. Everybody’s screamin’ and nobody’s listenin.’ It seems to me like a timebomb’s tickin,’’ and from here – like he does with the Jan.6 Irish singalong – he turns travesty into a goofy, feel-good ballad that could work as a show tune. Perhaps that’s the best way to share such a haunting and dire message. It makes it easier to digest, or at least more listenable.

Peeples’ approach to folk tackles timely woes but also is deeply personal. That’s what makes him such an excellent songwriter. You feel like you know him by the end of the album. A Murder of Songs can make you laugh and call you to action. That’s impressive. The songs are catchy and often fun, while also poignant and prolific. “Revolutionary Reel” is a great example. It contains lines such as “Curfews, quarantines, whoever thought we’d see these things,” a jest that allows us to reflect on the insanity of the lockdowns and riots we just experienced. This self-proclaimed “ditty” features Scott Anderson on banjo and Christian Ward on fiddle.

I want to make it clear A Murder of Songs is more than a protest album. One of my favorite songs is “The Restless Ones,” both autobiographical and relatable. The first verse is read by Scottish poet Lorna Simes, which complements the feel and raw emotion of the song just as well as Landon Gay’s gorgeous work on pedal steel. Peeples’ prose here are some of his best. Written during the pandemic, this song pours it all out; it’s a song about what he truly lives for, and is also an anthem for what it means to be an artist: “They write with fire, and they paint with blood but to them it’s never quite enough. It’s craziness but it’s what I feed on. I’ve always run with the restless ones.” 

Produced by Danny Goddard (who also co-wrote “This is the Good News,”), with Elisabeth Williamson, A Murder of Songs was recorded in over ten studios, with a plethora of players involved. It’s a true musical journey, one that encompasses a time that certainly hasn’t been easy, which is one of the things that makes it great. Peeples doesn’t shy away from tribulation. By addressing stark realities he shares just how much he’s learned and grown. This is demonstrated on the opening track, the 1985 Dire Straits tune “Brothers in Arms.” This recording – with B3 organ by Clyde Ramsay – brilliantly captures today’s division and isolation, with lines such as “There’s so many different worlds, so many different suns, but all we have is this world. And still, we live in different ones,” and it’s played in a way Peeples never could have played it before. Reflection is sometimes the best way to move us forward. It gives us the perspective we need to refrain from losing our minds. Still, there’s only so much we can do, as we’re surrounded by uncertainties. “This is the Good News” illustrates this succinctly: “Anything is possible, nothing is for sure, anyone can do these things, things never done before. This is the good news, this is the bad news.” 

A Murder of Songs is available on Feb. 21 wherever you stream music. To buy the album, and to find out more about Peeples, go to

Enjoy our previous coverage here: REVIEW: Grant Peeples’ “Bad Wife” is Sweet and Somewhat Antique

Other musicians featured on the album include producer Danny Goddard (his electric guitar work on “Liberal with a Gun” is exceptional), Kelly Goddard, Brian Durham, Lis Williamson, Lon Williamson, Deb Berlinger, Avis Berry, Razi Rwito, Gurf Morlix, Mark Patton, Clyde Ramsay, Kris Kolp, Mike Lagasse, Erik Alvar, Aaron O’Rourke, Doug Stock, Cody Williford, Emmet Carlisle, Joseph Interrante, Vinnie Seplesky, Tracy Collins, Tim Lorsch and Will Barrow.

Highlights: “The Restless Ones,” “Liberal with a Gun,” “This is the Good News,” “Insurrection Song (January 6)”

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