Of Bourbon, betrayals and double barrel gunslingers

Pete David & The Payroll Union

Stream – ‘There’s a light’

As previously mentioned in this here lil’ blog, Pete David & The Payroll Union have one heckuva name. They also play quite well live, with their Americana & Country mix being a particular hit, much to the surprise of quite a few people that think it’s a niche genre.

But then again, all genres have a niche, I think.

So, this EP, Underfed and Underpaid (reminds me of my days working in Mexico) is made up from 6 lovely tracks, produced by Tim Hampton (50% of Bromheads). The EP veers from pacey songs (with a snare drum that just won’t quit) to slow grooves, with some atmosphere to spare.

Let’s dig into Underfed and Underpaid, with lyrics that feel like a history lesson, talking about the revolutionary war, the witch hunt in Salem and even the Trail of Tears (that is, the exodus of the native Americans).

‘St. Lawrence River’, with that refrain of “We’re gonna die on a muddy river bed”, is slightly morbid but damn catchy. It’s the story of a soldier in the war between France and England for the control of Canada (7 year war) and although the sordid subject matter is there, the brisk pace juxtaposes just right.

Out of the two slower songs in Underfed and Underpaid, ‘Ghosts’ is probably my fave. The creepy atmosphere, the harmonica hitting those right notes while a haunting chorus is in the back and the steady drumbeat (snare, baby, snare!). A song for nights in the desert, with the ruins of an old settlement still smouldering in a red blood night sky. What is it about? Americana Gothic.

After the decidedly gloom and doom, ‘The Sacrifice’ and ‘Richmond Town’ come ’round and musicalise the barndance. Referencing the Salem Witch Trial, ‘The Sacrifice’ is on the rockier side of the spectrum, with some nifty harmonica playing for the outro (love it). Nice detail with that glass shattering at the end too! If ‘The Sacrifice’ was a song where the harmonica could take the limelight, ‘Richmond Town’ is the banjo’s solo act.

‘Abigail’ is that song about longing, probably a few years down the road from the act too. “The years stretch out before my eyes” defines the whole sense of that one, the special person that got away. Probably a song to sing while imbibing some strong libations.

But can’t go out with a downer (at least musically) and the rhythm section needed one to shine through too, right? Well, ‘There’s a light’ (the one streaming right now) closes the EP. It sounds peppy, it’s easy to dance too and it talks about genocide. Wait, what? Well, Andrew Jackson (the dude in the 20 dollar bill) did some truly horrific things, with the one taking the cake called “indian removal” (yes, it’s as horrible as you imagine). But the song? A real cracker.

So, yeah, next time you have a 20 dollar bill in your hand, curse that smug idiot, but if you see this band live, give them a round of applause, they made a very good EP with brainy lyrics, catchy music and a good recording. Great Americana for your listening pleasure.

—Sam

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About the author: Record ‘1826’! Please?


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