In the new age of country, there has been an undeniable shift towards songs that emulate more of a pop sound. Orville Peck, however, throws it back to old country music with his alternative rock style. He also proves that country stars do not have to be from America’s deep south, originating in South Africa and now living in Canada. With his fringe-masked persona and Elvis Presley voice, he has quickly gained cult-figure status and found his niche amongst country culture. His latest album has come out in sections with Bronco: Chapter 1 and Bronco: Chapters 1 & 2 culminating into the release of Bronco on April 8th.
The first three songs on the album are from his previous releases. “Daytona Sand,” starting it off with fun guitar and playful lyrics that build up the overarching vibe of the album. The next track “The Curse of the Blackened Eye” croons the listener into a southern bar, setting the scene for a pair of lovers dancing to Peck’s beautiful lyricism. “Outta Time” is not the best on the album, lacking some of the strikingness of the other songs, but in a clever reference to Peck’s own voice he includes the lyrics: “She tells me she don’t like Elvis; I say, I want a little less conversation, please.”
From here on out, the album switches back and forth between new songs and old. “Lafayette” sets up with a tune similar to the pacing of riding a horse, the kind of bouncing instrumentals that match the album name of Bronco. It then slows down with “C’mon Baby, Cry,” which feels like it belongs in a 70s movie like grease with John Travolta singing it in a drive in. “Iris Rose” is one of the weakest songs on the album, with nothing special or unique to Peck’s style.
“Kalahari Down” and “Trample Out the Days” are both haunting vocal-forward songs which are beautiful to anyone except the critics that do not like Orville Peck’s voice. Even if Peck’s voice is not the strongest, often being compared to the cheap imitators of Elvis, listeners cannot deny the spin he puts on the new era of country music that has often become too repetitive in themes. The titular song “Bronco” proves that he brings a fresh sound as the song is the perfect combination of alternative rock with Peck’s country croon.
The next song “Blush” does not provide much in instrumentals or lyricism, but it does make mention of Peck looking for love amongst men, something that he often mentions in songs and is unusual for traditional music in this genre. “Hexie Mountains” transports the listener far up into the mountains to sight see with their loved one before “Let Me Drown” takes them directly into a pool filled with their own tears.
Before the listener can even grab a tissue, “Any Turn” pulls them up to dance as it speeds up into fast drum beats fit to run to. “City of Gold” and “All I Can Say” end the album slowly, including the same upbeat sadness feel of the other tracks.
Orville Peck may be taking a lot of vocal cues from old country stars, but there is no denying his uniqueness in the current era of country. While not as strong as his debut album Pony which was acclaimed for its deep levels, Bronco is a great sophomore album. It continues to show off Peck’s style that is paving the way for a whole new wave of alternative country. At the end of the day “All I can say, all I can say is goodbye” until Orville Peck’s inevitable next hit.
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