All That Glitters is Gold - Orville Peck
This is All That Glitters is Gold, a recurring piece about some of my favorite artists, albums, tracks, and live shows. Here I will write about the music I love, most of which inspired me to start Alt Revue in the first place. I'm excited to highlight this music and talk about how it has impacted me. I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse into some of my favorites!
Orville Peck has emerged among a crowded field of alt artists that focus on Americana and country stylings. However, Peck's distinct style of modernized outlaw country stands head and shoulders above the rest. Part enigmatic-showman, who's identity is a mystery to his fans, he's easy to be drawn to. What draws me is the music, specifically his dynamic vocal range. He has a baritone drawl that's reminiscent of Elvis Presley at times, while at others he can hit sky high falsettos effortlessly.
His 2019 album Pony was a revelation for me. I've always been a fan of alt-country but this was alt-COUNTRY, and dammit Peck meant it. It reminded me of the classics like Johnny Cash, conveniently, he cites Cash and Gram Parsons among his influences. Random sidebar, if you've never listened to Gram Parsons "A Song for You" (as well as the Band of Horses cover) do yourself a favor and listen to both.
I had the opportunity to see Peck in concert at Austin City Limits 2019 Weekend Two (Saturday). Peck would be the first artist my wife and I would see on a day that was much colder than Weekend One. Even though he was among the first artists to perform, he drew a pretty decent crowd. He came out in one of his trademark burgundy suits with rhinestones all over depicting skeletons and the like and a matching cowboy hat. He also was wearing one of his leather masks that for some have become as synonymous with him as his music has. He had a beautiful white Gretsch guitar with orange hardware he played the entire set that I drooled over. Peck was accompanied by a three-piece band. He played for around 45 minutes, getting in pretty much most of the tracks from Pony and a couple of covers, as well as some witty banter with the crowd. From the start of the set, Peck had me hooked, he sounds just as great live as he does in the studio which struck me given his vocal prowess.
Over my time of listening to Peck's music, I have come to love "Queen of the Rodeo". A song which Peck informed us at ACL was about a drag queen before encouraging us all to go to a drag show if we hadn't been. In his words, drag shows are "the last form of subversive art". I loved it. The lyrics to the hook of this song might be my favorite lyrics of any song of 2019. "Queen of the rodeo / You rode on in with nowhere else to go / You know the tune so the words don't matter / Beyond this town lies a life much sadder / Babe, I know / Another evening to show / Queen of the rodeo". An absolutely perfect encapsulation of someone feeling trapped. These lyrics are just some of what Peck has to offer on Pony. I've included a video of "Queen of the Rodeo" here, so there's no excuse not to listen to it.
Now comes time for me to beg. I implore you to give Orville Peck's music a shot. Even if you don't consider yourself a country fan, you simply cannot deny his talent. Besides that, he's so much more than a country artist, he infuses other elements and styles into his sound making the old new. He bucks traditional notions of fame for a lifestyle that allows him to keep his anonymity (in fact he shared a photo of himself walking around ACL with a bandana and sunglasses on his face just taking in the festival). One final thing, I've found (much like all artists) his music is best listened to on vinyl.