Grant Peeples, The Brick Street Café, Okemah, OK (Woody Guthrie Folk Festival) July 14th 2012
Waking up in our motel room in Henryetta, OK early on Saturday morning, the day of Woody Guthrie’s centenary, we could hear someone playing guitar. Husband followed the sounds and found Grant Peeples, in the reception area, rehearsing for his scheduled festival set, later that day.
Each year an artist new to the festival seems to take WoodyFest by storm and in this special celebratory year, that accolade, in the opinion of many attendees, would go to Peeples. His set at the Brick Street Café went down a storm, so much so, that the discerning crowd, who recognise a class act when they see one, gave him a standing ovation.
Peeples is a songwriter who took a break from the music business and spent a decade or so living on a small island off the coast of Nicaragua. Returning to the US he found that things had changed, not always for the better and in response to what he saw around him, wrote Grant’s Talking Blues. It’s a sad indictment on much that is wrong in the country ‘America is a broken dream…’ he says nailing his political views firmly to the mast with his first song. That theme of railing against the socio political climate continued with amongst others Patriot Act and Real Country. Peeples, with his forthright views and delivery quickly established a rapport with his audience, endearing himself by juxtaposing hard, uncompromising messages with amusingly ironic back-stories to his songs. One in point was the tale of the 4th July parade in small town Florida which for over fifty years ran without a murmur of dissent until recently when the Gay and Lesbian Sons and Daughters of the Southern Confederacy entered a float – wouldn’t you have loved to have been there to witness the ruffling of feathers that caused?
Third song in, Peeples invited ‘Red Dirt Girl’ Monica Taylor on stage. Her sweet vocals as they duetted on The Hanging gave me goose-bumps and showed that there is so much more to Peeples’ writing than his ‘in-your-face’ protest songs.
Now I’m not sure if he was joking or not but Peeples said that his agent in Sacramento (who to date doesn’t seemed to have done a great deal to earn his fees) has got a song of his placed in a film. If true, then That Kinda Woman in the forthcoming film adaptation of this year’s blockbuster read FIFTY SHADES OF GREY will garner a lot of attention and hopefully make Peeples a few dollars.
Erik Alvar on stand up bass lent sympathetic accompaniment throughout – the pair are on a 13,000-mile, 8-week tour of the USA promoting PRIOR CONVICTIONS, which as I write is top of the Radio Free Americana chart. That album is a Gurf Morlix production (in my book, anything that Morlix is involved in is a ‘must listen’) and the encore song, an audience sing along High Fructose Corn Syrup owes much to Morlix’s take on Peeples’ original working of the melody. As I said at the beginning, a standing ovation and well-deserved too. Jela Webb