PEEWEE MOORE - AMERICAN OUTLAW
2015 - Rusty Knuckles
This is Peewee Moore's third tremendous album of modern 'Outlaw country.' I use the word 'modern' simply to distinguish him from the 'old timers' Bobby, Willie, Waylon, etc. because there are differences despite Peewees close stylistic links. The big thing is that his music has a total lack of sanitization whilst the other three, at least early in their careers, were dictated to by the record companies, as a consequence of which, whilst they were always edgy, some of that record company way of doing things can't have failed to have smoothed off some of the harsh edges. This is not the case with Peewee's music, which on occasions is raw and edgy but at the same time incredibly melodic despite a hardness that adds an aggressive and at times slightly threatening nuance to his work.
This new album leaves no doubt that Peewee also has a rare talent for telling honest believable stories that are set to an often fiery 'honky tonk' style. His vocals may be raw but there is always that strong melodicism and an ability to completely inhabit the songs, in many ways a 'classic country' style but with a total lack of artifice and polish that leaves him well on the right side of the border from 'mainstream' country. He probably has more country twang and feeling in his voice than just about the entire country chart artists put together. When you listen to these songs, many of which have been described as 'real redneck country,' you just know that he is writing and singing about subject matter that he has an intimate knowledge of, perhaps even lived some of them.
The lineup for this album was Peewee Moore on lead vocals, acoustic and electric guitars and bass guitar, Ben Hicks, bass guitar, Boots Jackson Hill on drums, Yatti Westfield, drums and bass guitar, Kenny Berry also on bass guitar, Mike Headrick, pedal steel guitar, Jeff Coppage, who co-roduced with Peewee on background vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, shakers and tambourine, with Peewee's wife Nicki on background vocals. Whilst everything from the playing to the writing and the arrangements are as good as a listener could wish for, what carries the album is Peewee's powerfully evocative raw twanging vocals, almost as if he was born for the sole purpose of playing 'real country music,' which he probably was!
Sixteen songs spread over sixty two and a half minutes is generous by any standard but whilst many albums of this length can seem too much and become tiring, any listener after however many plays of this excellent recording will simply find themselves wanting even more! All of the songs were written by Peewee Moore except Wanted Man which he co-wrote with T. Underwood, Where's A Man To Go with Roger Alan Wade, Carol Loraine Moore, and Shandy Dixon, Georgia On A Fast Train by Billy Joe Shaver and Thunder Road by Robert Mitchum.
The opening song Breaker sets the scene for what is to follow, greeting us with a deep twangy guitar before being joined by percussion, bass and Peewee's atmospheric vocal on a tremendous 'trucking' anthem. Certainly it is an often used theme in country music but the arrangement of instruments and Peewee's classic story telling expertise makes this song a valuable addition to the genre. Whilst it is a mid tempo tale there is always that threatening 'redneck' edginess, or perhaps a 'hard edginess' would be a better description of a song that creates an atmosphere from which it is easy to deduce the grinding hardness of a trucker's life. Following that a beautiful steel guitar gets another tremendous story song underway on a gorgeous ballad on which Peewee gives a perfect heartrending rendition of the sad demise of the Underground Queen, a tale so strong that even after numerous sessions the listener will find themselves thinking 'if only she could have been saved.' Slow chiming guitars mixed with percussion lay a melodic foundation for Nickajack Dam an intensely dramatic murder ballad, with its classic drowning and man on the run theme, variations of which have been done before but rarely with this much commitment, believability and a sheer heartrending feeling of sad hopelessness. Peewee gives a quite haunting rendition of Thunder Road a song that tells the story of a 'moonshiner' who never seeks nor gets redemption, eventually pushing his luck a little too far. The harmonies on the chorus increase the power of the song that is already full of drama and there is a tremendous guitar solo that adds to the edginess of the tale. Elmer Gruene is another tremendous song, this one with a 'western swing feel,' a lovely deep twangy guitar that blends perfectly with the gorgeous steel guitar, whilst the percussion and bass give tremendous support to Peewee's evocative telling of the story. Hey Rosalita has a nice easy rolling intro with acoustic and electric guitars aided by percussion and bass on a hugely evocative sad tale of a lonely old man reflecting on the loss of his lover many years before and hoping she will return. If ever a song painted a sad lost love tale this is it! The song has a lovely sympathetic arrangement and blend of instruments with a gorgeous mandolin intervening. Final track on this tremendous album is the title song American Outlaw, with just acoustic guitar and Peewee's evocative vocal confirming the man can play it any way; stripped down or with a full band sound. Ultimately, in his world the telling of the story is his prime concern rather than the coloration as proven on this tremendously believable finale to a genre defining album.
Recordings such as this really are the way country music should be going to retain any link to its roots or indeed credibility. Much of the 'country pop' that is passed off as 'country' in terms of chart placing really has had its day and is o.k as pleasant, bland background music but if you want songs and sounds that challenge the listener Peewee Moore and an increasing number of artists who are slowly coming to public attention are really what springs from the roots that were planted by Hank Williams.