Orville Peck: Bronco (Columbia) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Orville Peck



Apr 22, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Country music has found itself in the middle of a reckoning. Though “stadium” and mainstream country will likely always be what it is (along with its unfortunate political trappings), artists who go against the grain are emerging on larger platforms. In a strange way, the timeline has folded—traditional sounds clash against modern production and pop sensibilities, and unique voices have stepped out of the woodwork. Amidst it all is Orville Peck: a flamboyant, gilded, South African cowboy with the vibrato of Roy Orbison and the charisma of Elvis.

His first record, 2019’s Pony, introduced a traditionalist with a twist. Peck took on the visual persona of the outlaw, hiding his face behind a fringed bandit mask and a low-brimmed cowboy hat, but repurposed the trope for himself as a queer country star. Now, he has maintained the look, but upped the glam. Where Pony was all mystery, heartbreak, and Twin Peaks guitar drones, Bronco is pure romance.

While Peck occasionally pulls vocal cues and instrumental styles from his modern peers, Bronco feels like it was pulled from a different era, if not a fantastical version of one. As a singer and arranger, Peck pulls no punches. The songs on Bronco are maximalist country masterpieces, from the propulsive title track to the barn-burning “Any Turn.” There is the vaguest hint of comedy on the cantering “Iris Rose” and album opener “Daytona Sand,” which ends with Peck spelling out “M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I” on loop, and songs like “Let Me Drown” and “Kalahari Down” provide an enchanting air of melodrama.

But the album’s best moment is its last and perhaps most sincere—a duet between Peck and his bandmate, country musician Bria Salmena, entitled “All I Can Say.” Peck and Salmena channel Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” in the song’s opening, complete with slide guitar and a woozy 12/8 lope. Salmena’s husky, warm voice begins the verse, eventually joined by Peck. As the song builds, so does the strength of their vocals as they stack powerful harmonies on the bridge and outro choruses. It encompasses all of Peck’s talents in one bright flame of melody.

At 15 songs, Bronco is dense. It’s also incredibly addictive. At every turn on Bronco, Peck’s megawatt voice soars. His extensive range glides easily from bass to falsetto, and there isn’t a moment his voice, phrasing, and incredible gift for melody doesn’t captivate. Despite its length, it’s difficult not to wish for more from someone who is so clearly meant to be a star. But for now, Peck rides off into the sun, leaving gold in his wake. (www.orvillepeck.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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