Orville Peck is an enigmatic country musician from Toronto. He wears a mask and has revealed very few personal details about himself throughout his recent rise. He’s based his image around the outlaw bandit archetype, churning out lovelorn country and western ballads with a rebellious and nostalgic tinge, and his brooding vocal croon is absolutely hypnotic. Today, he drops his gorgeous and haunting debut album Pony, which is packed with lush harmonies, pensive spirits and far-out tall tales of heartbreak, debauchery and redemption. He wears his grizzled cowboy heart on his sleeve – a confessional Lone Ranger for our current fraught times.
While recalling the throwback outlaw stalwarts like Cash, Kristofferson, and Orbison, Peck also channels modern indie-rock singer-songwriter vibes akin to Kacey Musgraves or Sturgill Simpson. The reverberating, nostalgic guitar stabs on opening track “Dead of Night” usher in a wave of jangly drums, snake-like rattles, and Peck’s astonishingly emotive voice, which oscillates from deep and guttural to sweetly falsetto. Peck strikes a maverick tone as he illustrates the plight of western hustlers across dark, barren Nevada deserts. On “Turn to Hate,” the first song he wrote for the album, Peck pulls at the heart strings as he dissects the bitterness of romantic break-ups. Propulsive guitar chords, wistful solos, and rollicking percussion give this old school country ballad a kick of poignancy as Peck parses feelings of resentment and acceptance. “Walking back towards the gate/ You’ll all be stars now just you wait/ Dumb enough to take the bait/ Don’t let my sorrow turn to hate,” he croons, a truly cathartic send-off to one of the year’s best songs so far.
From there, the album ranges from marauding country rock n’ roll bombast (“Winds Change,” “Buffalo Run,”) to sparse folk-tinged reflections (“Big Sky”, “Queen of the Rodeo”). There’s even some kraut-rock-like organ experimentation on “Old River” for good measure. Ultimately, Pony is a bold statement and a total triumph for Orville Peck. Look for him to ascend to modern country icon status within the next few years. You can purchase Pony HERE and watch the stunning videos for “Turn to Hate” and “Dead of Night” below.