Grant Peeples | Prior Convictions

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Prior Convictions

by Grant Peeples

Every song on this record weaves between the danger of wrapping ones arms around a Truth, and the perils of Waking Up.
Genre: Folk: Modern Folk
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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Things Have Changed (feat. Ruthie Foster)
5:28 $0.99
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2. Patriot Act (for Dave Hickey)
4:18 $0.99
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3. Gunning for the Buddha
3:32 $0.99
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4. Market Town
4:34 $0.99
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5. Road to Damascus
4:03 $0.99
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6. Sad Naked Woman
3:21 $0.99
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7. Last Night I Dreamed in Spanish
3:42 $0.99
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8. Nigger Lover
3:36 $0.99
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9. Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns
3:45 $0.99
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10. The Last Honest Man
4:36 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Though better known for producing Lucinda Williams, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Mary Gauthier, Robert Earl Keen, Slaid Cleaves and Tom Russell, “Prior Convictions” is Gurf Morlix’s second Grant Peeples project. (“Okra and Ecclesiastes” 2011) And the pairing appear to be in full stride here.

Once again, percussionist Rick Richards, perennial Ray Wylie Hubbard sideman, has laid down mythic grooves. Ruthie Foster turns in a smoking performance on the Bob Dylan tune, “Things Have Changed.” Joel Guzman, arguably the best button accordion player in the world, simply defines two tracks the record, as he has often done on Joe Ely records.

Morlix is at his best. There is the brilliantly understated guitar work for which he is famous---and those syrup kettle tones. But he also plays bass, banjo, keys and steel. And he sings through-out, with lilting, almost feminine harmony that defies the bite and growl typically heard when he sings solo.

Grant's Notes on Prior Convictions
Things Have Changed: My favorite Bob Dylan song, which I re-tooled here into a duet. When Gurf heard this version he immediately said: “We need to talk to Ruthie Foster about this one.”

Patriot Act (for Dave Hickey): I recorded this song on my first record, “Later Than You Think.” Then it came back. The verse melody and a few lines are borrowed from a Dave Hickey song called “Double Die Damn,” which I first heard in 1973. Hickey’s song was never officially or formally recorded. But it is part of my DNA.

Gunning for the Buddha: A song by the 1980s British pop band, Shriekback. I’ve had the song in my head for thirty years. I deleted their first verse and wrote a new third verse.

Market Town: Written by Oregon songwriter, Myshkin. Minie Brattain, perhaps my favorite songwriter on the planet, sang this to me while we were driving to the Kerrville Folk Festival in 2010. It is a breath-taking use of parable.

Road to Damascus: I wrote this when I was in my 20’s. Most of the New Testament is dribble from the post-conversion mind of the whiney apostle Paul. This song is a look into who he was prior to him being struck blind…on the road to Damascus.

Sad Naked Woman: I fell into a painting of the same name and came out with this song.

Last Night I Dreamed In Spanish: It’s been over five years since I left Nicaragua. Maybe it is because of my aversion to sentimentality in art forms that I have never sung about my eleven years of living there. But this song is the first crack in the door that opens to that part of my past. Joel Guzman plays button accordion. The bridge is derived from the poem by the great Cuban poet, Jose Marti, “Arbol de mi Alma.”

Nigger Lover: In 1967 my elementary school in Tallahassee was integrated for the first time. The song is born of a verbatim memory from that time, coupled with siftings from the culture of today.

Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns: What happens when an exotic dancer has to reconcile her newly found faith with her profession? This song portends to beg the question: what would, say, a banker or real estate broker do, if they had to? Inspired by the powerful poetess Andrea Gibson, who has a book of poems with the same name.

Last Honest Man: (aka Diogenes Blues) A tribute to the philosopher Diogenes. This might be the most defining song on the record, albeit the most inaccessible. Two lines were incorporated into the song from a lucid and meticulously crafted poem of John Ashbery’s called “Punishing the Myth.”

About the title “Prior Convictions”
In 1991 my friend, Hugh Roche, gave me a book of stories by Dave Hickey, called “Prior Convictions.” Hickey was a friend of Hugh’s brother, Jimmy, the Tallahassee artist whose work and vision were so influential during my formative years.

The book was not the first time I’d heard Hickey’s name. Not hardly. In the early 1970s Hugh had gone with Jimmy to Texas for a rendezvous of artists in Lubbuck, and had come back with a homemade recording of five songs written and recorded by Dave Hickey.

The songs were character-rich, powerful, intelligent, ripped with poetic metaphor; they were witty and melodic and chock full of beautifully phrased assonance and alliteration. And yet they were gritty and gravelly and calloused, too----the sweetest juxtaposition imaginable.

I’d never heard anything like them in my life. That tape, and those songs (which were never formally recorded by Dave or anyone else) were carved into my creative identity as deeply as any songs ever written. So when I got the book, I tore into it.

The stories were great. Some tender, some brutal. But all were compelling, and wrought with the same nuance and insight into character that had been in those songs I had come to know twenty years earlier. I flipped through the pages in a two-day read. And then I got to the last story.

It was different. And it took a little while before I realized that it wasn’t really a story at all. It wasn’t fiction. But an essay. An explanation about why Dave Hickey wasn’t going to be writing any more stories. He was shedding his skin like a snake, when most snakes were just swallowing their tails. For me the essay was like a lucid, rational suicide note. And in effect, that’s exactly what it was.

“It took Hemmingway’s brains spattered all over Idaho,” Dave says in the essay, “and three years of my fretting over them, to awaken me to what I should have known all along---that style and lifestyle were inseperable---that it was all about the swoon, and the triumph of hallucination.”
I felt vertigo. Like a child learning there’s no Santa Claus.

But Dave had moved on. Leaving nothing but the dust on the highway behind. He was turning off amps, unplugging, packing it in. He had found some sort of new ground to plow. A new way to sort through the trash.

Even today when I read that essay I get anxious and uneasy and short of breath, and experience that same sort of angst that rises in one’s chest at a funeral, but that is brought on by reflection upon one’s own mortality, rather than that of the person in the box.

It is in tribute to this feeling, and in honor of the terror that artists have tenderly embraced ever since charging bulls were painted on the walls of caves in France, that I gratefully borrow the title of Dave Hickey’s book for this collection of songs.

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