As the earth warms with the coming spring, the desire for summer grows along with my excitement for spring and summer releases. One of my favorite music finds is and has always been debut album releases. A debut album has the opportunity to capture a time, moment, or whisper of fresh air that may pull the breath from your lungs. Beyond an introduction, a debut usually makes the first artistic statement. The first thing you may notice is Peck's appearance, it's shocking and intriguing. Peck wears a brightly colored cowboy costume, a ten-gallon hat, and one of fifteen homemade masks with fringe. Orville Peck has a previous persona as a different artist, whom seems irrelevant to this review, but if you must know I will tell you in person. Peck reminds me of Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra with a softer hint of masculinity, and a modern flavor. Orville's voice croons a dynamic range that is shown off throughout the album. This is an interesting take on a concept album, with a Tarantino like narrative and sound, telling the story of a group of motley characters, set in the pre-modern outlaw west. Pony could be put into a few different categories Outlaw Country, Gothic Americana, Indie, and even perhaps even southern rock.
The album opens with the first single "Dead Of Night" which showcases peck's entire vocal range, a slow and low Gibson hollow body, minimal drums and a tinge of twang. The song portrays a story of two hustlers driving in the dead of night. "Winds Change" is a bit more upbeat, with a bit of slide guitar. The story of losing your way in the tedious path to fame, sacrificing love and relationships, on a ride that is both heartwrenching and beautiful. "Turn To Hate" sounds more Americana, more of a wall of sound and less dynamic than the rest of the album. The story seems to highlight sorrow and an easy slip into hatred and bitterness. "Buffalo Run" clearly has some punk and rockabilly influence with very simple guitar and driving drums, yet keeps in his lane as a mysterious masked outlaw country singer. "Queen Of The Rodeo" is an anthem with gated reverb drums and gives the feeling that you're in a country bar, perhaps hanging out after the rodeo. "Kansas (Remembers Me Now)" sounds intentional like it's being listened to on AM radio. As the song progresses the quality crumbles setting the story of relocation and watching the past fade and dither, but not without memory. "Old River" Tumbling down to a perfect lo frequency organ intermission track complete with tremolo, and a crooning Peck. "Big Sky" is my favorite track on the album, the song moves slow and takes it time. Twangy hollow body leads while banjo follows, as Orville croons in his lowest register. The lyrics and story are rather ambiguous, personal and perhaps not for me to analyze. "Roses Are Falling" sounds like Hank I, the song waltz's along in 6/8 walking guitar, and brushed drums. The story of celebrating and loving someone isn't a new one but it is a classic. "Take You Back(The Iron Hoof Cattle Call)" is a cattle driving song but also a breakup song. Whistling, cattle whips, and tub-thumping bass complete this track. "Hope To Die" is a heartfelt look at sincere promises, and looking back. Adding yet another track where Peck flexes his vocal range. "Nothing Fades Like The Light" is a perfect album closer, a slow 6/8 guitar, swelling with bass, and some of the best lyrics on the album.
This album plays like a film, with each song setting the imagery with unique recording technics(yep intentional) or old-time instruments to paint a setting as you listen. It strikes me as unique, inspired and sincere. I have intentionally avoided this character's sexuality, as it should have no bearing on the perception of art. Pony is available on vinyl, 24/96 FLAC on Qobuz, or MQA on tidal.