I give an A for effort and originality to Peter Ellis for his work on his recent release Weird, Sordid, & Deadly But True Tales of America (1609 - 1906). The title is descriptive of what this album entails. Peter Ellis doesn't sing on this album. He tells stories over sparse instrumentation mostly in the form of his acoustic guitar (although there is a good amount of variation). His spoken word pieces aren’t catchy, don’t contain choruses and won’t be anything that people will get stuck in their head.
To get any enjoyment out of this album it is best you follow along with the stories. Some of the music itself is mildly enjoyable but it is largely repetitive and simply serves as background for his stories.
His first story/song is from 1609 entitled “Powdered Wife,” which is supported by his acoustic guitar and an occasional block of distortion. The story isn’t exactly easy to follow and I am still confused about a number of lines. The next song “Led To The Slaughter “ leaps ahead 276 years to 1885 in which Ellis implements sounds effects such as shotgun blasts and the sound of trains to immerse you into the story.
“The Velvet Swing” tells a heartwarming story of Henry Thaw blowing Stanford White’s head off with a gun. Good stuff. “Westinghoused” is about the battle between AC and DC power. He mentions Edison but I was surprised he didn’t mention his student Tesla. For those who are interested in delving into this wonderful debacle check out The History Channel’s “The Men Who Built America.”
As the stories progresses I noticed that they weren’t all just weird, sordid and deadly but dark and depressing. Plus lots of guns are mentioned. A happier tale would have been appreciated but no worries. “Pullman Company Town” talks about a dystopian community while “Panaceas For All Complications” is about a medicinal concoction that ends up paralyzing some kid.
Weird, Sordid, & Deadly But True Tales of America (1609 - 1906) is an album I don't need to revisit very often. That’s not meant to be a bad thing. The album is interesting and I thought that some of the storytelling was well done. It’s just not something I’m going to be listening to on my way to work everyday. That being said, I recommend you take a listen to this album even if it’s only once.
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