In the 1953 movie The Wild One, Marlon Brando portrays a surly biker gang leader whose scruffy minions invade and terrorize a small town. When asked by a local girl what he's rebelling against, Brando snarls “Whaddya got?” For his latest outing, A Murder of Songs, Grant Peeples has a long list of grievances he's rebelling against. The murder reference apparently refers to the proper name for flock of crows, as depicted on the cover. But Peeples protest song collection here is aptly named.
He doesn't sugar coat his message, or drape peace and love sentiments over his calls for change. “Don’t let the circle be unbroken, don’t let the sunshine in/Who gives a damn where all the flowers have gone/The answers aren’t blowing in the wind,” he declares on his original, “Lets Start Killing Each Other.” In the opening lines he admits that back in '75 he had hope for the cultural divide “when I saw hippies and rednecks dance side-by-side At Willie Nelson’s Texan 4th of July.” But now things have gotten to the point that the general solution seems to be “whip out a switchblade/ pullout a gun/Pistol whip some sumbitch just for fun/And don’t stop dealing till the dealing’s done/Till we start killing each other.”
Peeples sounds like Willie on Mark Knopfler's “Brothers In Arms, a song he says was informed by the Falkland War. Peeples admits he'd been smitten with it since he heard first heard it in 1985, delivering a stripped down version just as moving as Knopfler's original, with the chilling message still relevant today: “Every man, he has to die/But it's written in the starlight and every line there in your palm/That we’re fools to make war on our brothers in arms.” The rest of the nine cut are all originals, collated over a two year period in 2020 through 2021, some written before November 2016, when he alleges America “either changed or just revealed how and what it had always been.”
“Insurrection Song (January 6)” sounds like an Irish jig, but there's nothing good to celebrate here: “Freedom’s just another word for all we have to lose/Let the sonsabitches rot in jail for what they tried to do.”
On “Liberals with Guns,” Peeples issues a dire warning to jackboot-clad, saber-rattling insurrectionists who think brandishing firearms is the answer: “I know they’re locked and loaded, but they ain’t the only ones/They better look out though cause there’s liberals, and they too got guns.” It ain't easy listening music, but it sure as hell gets its point across, a kill shot right between the ears.
Grant Britt (