WHAT ARE THE CRITICS SAYING ABOUT JEFFERSON PEPPER'S AMERICAN EVOLUTION? . . .
"If I had to say who I think is the most important artist in music today I would, without a moment's hesitation, say Jefferson Pepper. The man is a genius...Early comparisons to greats such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young were well founded...This Pennsylvanian is, at this moment in time, getting his message across in his music better than anyone else." Malcolm Carter, Pennyblack Music (UK)
Jefferson's writing is excellent, thought provoking and original...All considered, lyrically this could easily be one of the strongest CDs to be released (this year)." Cashbox Magazine (US)
"Pepper's intelligent lyrics are matched by strong melodic tunes with memorable choruses...highly original contemporary Americana." Phil Suggitt, Shindig Magazine (UK)
"An impressive and thoughtful project..." Mike Davies, NetRhythms (UK)
"Amazingly well-crafted..." The Belfast Telegraph (Northern Ireland)
"His understanding of a wide variety of music genres and subgenres make him as much of a patriot as his opinions." Tom Geddie, Fort Worth Weekly (US)
"There are too many highlights to give any of the seventeen songs on Volume 1 prominence over others, but if Volumes 2 and 3 maintain the same level of quality, 'American Evolution' deserves to become one of the most remarkable releases of the year, and possibly the century so far...the very definition of Americana." David Innes, Rock N Reel Magazine (UK)
"One of the better lyricists of our present time." Eduardo Izquierdo, Sonicwave (Spain)
"10 out of 10...One of the reasons Jefferson Pepper is emerging as such a potent force is that he writes brilliantly when addressing the personal as well as the political." Tim Peacock, Whisperiin and Hollerin (Ireland)
"What really sets Pepper apart from the much maligned mainstream (country) genre is the quality of the lyrics." Alan Martin, AllGigs (UK)
"An expansive concept that undoubtedly contains something for everyone...Pepper is a skilled lyricist who manages to pull off with relative ease what would be a mind-blowing concept to many." Neal Parsons, The Skinny (Scotland)
"It is worth your time if you like your good ole boys blessed with a brain and a pedal steel guitar." Paul Pledger, AllGigs (UK)
"As music projects go, Jefferson Pepper's latest set of releases is a magnificent achievement in concentrated yet voluminous output...If there is a record which will stand the test of time and encapsulate the uneasiness with which Americans live with their own politics and religion, this should be it." Soundfires (UK)
"I have a thing about admiring people that set out on ambitious creative projects with an over-hanging purpose. Jefferson Pepper is truly embracing that vision." Anders Svendsen, Luna Cafe (Norway)
"One of the first things that strikes you about Pepper's music is not only how timeless it sounds, but how modern it is while drawing so heavily on the past...American Evolution is a phenomenally intelligent album, dressing up it's protest songs in music so beautiful you can't resist, feeding you it's politics in a cup of honey rather than shoving them down your throat." Jenni Cole, MusicOMH (UK)
“The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” William Faulkner
For the past several years, Jefferson Pepper has been asking himself “What has happened to my country?” For Pepper, it was a notion that he could not let go. For him, it wasn’t just a rhetorical, abstract question. He wanted answers. He started reading. And writing songs.
Lots of songs.
He spent the winters of 2006 and 2007 holed up in his cedar-sided home studio in the Conewago Mountains of southern Pennsylvania. As the snow piled up outside, he became more and more reclusive, sometimes going for several weeks at a time without leaving the house. For two years he worked feverishly on writing and recording the songs that would be included on his sophomore effort, the follow-up to his acclaimed 2005 debut album 'Christmas in Fallujah'.
Inspired in part by Howard Zinn’s landmark book 'A People’s History of the United States' and by the Dover Intelligent Design Trial (Kitzmiller vs Dover School Board) which played out in his backyard of Dover, PA, Pepper is releasing an ambitious 50-song, 3-CD series entitled 'American Evolution' which traces the evolution of culture, society and music, as well as the evolution of the individual in America. Spanning over 500 years of history, he tells the story of America as seen through the eyes of the working people who have made their country great. His America seldom resembles the one he learned about in history class; the official history, written by those for whom the system was designed. Pepper wanted to tell the story of his America from the point of view of those who have seldom had a voice. The golden thread of his narrative is that the exploitation of working people has always been a part of the social fabric of this nation and that war is and always has been an instrument of bringing the many under the domination of the few. Along the way, he tackles some of this country’s sacred cows, such as Columbus Day, economic disparity, the military-industrial complex, religious fundamentalism, Disney World and runaway materialism. Each song addresses another piece of this nation’s history. Beginning with the pre-Columbian era, 'American Evolution' moves through time to the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil-Rights Era, Vietnam, post-industrial America, to the present and ends by stepping off into the future and where we are headed.
The grandson of coal miners and farmers and the son of a factory worker, Pepper has experienced firsthand the challenges of living the American Dream in rural Pennsylvania. He has worked as a stock clerk in a grocery store, a bricklayer and a factory worker. He identified at an early age with working people and the uphill battles they faced. His earliest exposure to music was in the Baptist church where his mother sang in the choir. In school he discovered alternative and punk artists such as Patti Smith, Nirvana and The Clash. It wasn’t until later that he became interested in Country and Folk-Rock artists such as Neil Young, John Prine and Johnny Cash. These artists all left an indelible mark on his song writing.
American Evolution Volume I (the Red album) covers the time period 1492 to 1940. Stylistically, the seventeen songs range from old-timey fiddle tunes, folk, blues and swing to bluegrass, alt-country, Americana and roots rock. 'Can’t Go Home' (track 1) begins with the sweet singing of songbirds in a pre-Columbian America and ends with the death of the last human on earth in a concrete bunker seven stories underground. 'Columbus Day' discusses the bloody first encounter between native Americans and European conquerors. 'The Sheep and the Goats' reminds us of the importance of following the Golden Rule. 'Lewis and Clark Homecoming' is an instrumental fiddle tune which captures the celebration of the return of this historic early nineteenth century expedition. 'Trail of Tears' is a roots rock gem about man’s reptilian brain and us-versus-them mentality. 'Can’t Come Back' reminds us to get all we can from life because we’re all “going like a freight train, rolling down a one way track”. 'Appomattox' is an old-timey instrumental which celebrates the end of the Civil War. 'Rockefellers' brings the record into the industrial revolution. 'Only Survivor' makes observations on the Statue of Liberty. 'Riverbank Blues' takes you to the banks of the Mississippi on a lonely summer day. 'Dam in the River of Life' considers the religious, social and psychological effects of Darwin’s theory. 'Fine Fine Day' offers a new spin on the virtues of electricity. 'I Don’t Wanna Be Alone' is an old-timey ditty about the evolution of a married couple’s life together. 'Stranger in the Glass' is about a person who no longer recognizes his own face. 'Paperback Romance' is a 3/4 time waltz about an orphan girl working in a second hand store. 'Wood and Wire' talks about a man who is unhappy living in his soulless house. 'Primates Swingin’' is a fun song done in a Texas swing style which discusses the origins of humankind.
American Evolution Volume 1 includes many fine musicians: Scott Fisher and Marshall Deasy on drums and percussion, Mike Argento and Chris Planas on electric guitars, Kenny Geist and Jon Shain on acoustic and electric guitars, Thom Bissey on electric bass, Rod Goelz on upright bass, Randy Stewart on Banjo, Bill Nork on Dobro, Joe Allison on fiddle and mandolin and Ray Eicher on pedal steel. Jefferson Pepper provides all lead and harmony vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, electric bass, mandolin, harmonica, keyboards and percussion. The album was recorded by Jefferson Pepper, Marshall Deasy and Josh Myers at the House of Beer Cans in York Haven, PA and Stress Free Studios in Harrisburg, PA. Mixing and mastering were completed at Stress Free.
RELEASE DATES FOR JEFFERSON PEPPER'S AMERICAN EVOLUTION
Volume 1 (the Red Album): April 15, 2008
Volume 2 (the White Album): June 17, 2008
Volume 3 (the Blue Album): Fall, 2008.
CLICK ON THE IMAGE AT LEFT TO READ REVIEWS OF 'AMERICAN EVOLUTION'
1. Can't Go Home
2. Columbus Day
3. The Sheep and the Goats
4. Lewis and Clark Homecoming
5. Trail of Tears
6. Can't Come Back
9. Only Survivor
10. Riverbank Blues
11. Dam in the River of Life
12. Fine Fine Day
13. I Don't Wanna Be Alone
14. Stranger in the Glass
15. Paperback Romance
16. Wood and Wire
17. Primates Swingin'
1. On and On
2. Civilized Savior
3. Disposable Me, Disposable You
4. Real Good Time
5. Collection of Angels
6. Break the Chain
7. Good Morning Mrs. Stine
9. The Land That I Love
10. The Ballad of Betty Wulfrum
11. Doin' it Right
13. One Percent
14. The Cryin' Land
15. Coming Down
16. Orphans of Endorphins
17. Another White Line
1. Open Up The Window (and let reality in)
2. Broken Lullabies
3. Daddy Needs a Little Help
4. The Corporate Machine
5. Preaching To The Choir
6. 21 in the 21st Century
7. Disney World View
8. Freedom Ain't Free
9. Bedford Village
10. Government Things
11. Famous For Being Famous
13. Dear Katrina
14. Dover Darlin'
15. Dear Santa
16. Ten Mile Chunk of Cosmic Garbage
17. Talking 911 Terrorist Blues
For American Evolution Volumes 2 and 3, Pepper's songs continue on the timeline of American history. Volume 2 covers 1941 to 1989 and Volume 3 covers 1990 to the present and future. Musicians include all the players from Volume 1. Other special guests include Fats Kaplin (Kane Welch Kaplin, Roy Bookbinder, Pure Prarie League, Kristie Rose), Tim Lorsch (Sam Baker, Kris Kristofferson, Mary Gauthier, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, Jason Eady, Allison Moorer, Ray Price, Rodney Crowell), Gene Rabbai (Neil Young, Willie Nelson), Deon Estus (Tina Turner, Sting, Elton John, George Michael), Dave Francis (Maura O'Connell, Pam Tillis), Bryan Owings (Shelby Lynne, Buddy Miller), and Bill Newton (Jon Shain). Additional recording on Volumes 2 and 3 was completed at Bull Creek Productions in Nashville by Tim Lorsch, who co-produced both of Sam Baker's albums; 'Mercy' and 'Pretty World'.
Volume 2 opens with 'On and On', the story of a boy who signs up for the draft and fights in the Second World War. 'Civilized Savior' bemoans President Eisenhower's military-industrial complex. 'Disposable Me Disposable You' discusses the new throwaway society of the 1950's. 'Real Good Time' takes us back to the early days of rock n roll in Memphis. 'Collection of Angels' focuses on the lonely life of a widow on her first Christmas alone. 'Break The Chain' is the story of a boy born into a desperate cycle of poverty and alcoholism. 'Good Morning Mrs. Stine' is the story of the grumpy old lady next door. 'Ben' is the story of a childhood friend. 'The Land That I Love' is an anthem for Vietnam War-era America. 'The Ballad of Betty Wulfrum' is about a homely girl evolving into a beauty queen. 'Doin' It Right' is a song written for Jefferson's father. 'Crucify' asks the question: "What if Jesus came back to the earth and lived like an ordinary man?" 'One Percent' is a warped disco song with unusual instrumentation including pedal steel, which discusses American economic disparity. 'The Crying Land' is an account of what could have happened as a result of the 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant (in reality, just down the road from Jefferson's home in rural Pennsylvania). 'Coming Down' has a definite 80's feel and discusses man's short-sightedness in developing technology. 'Orphans of Endorphins' delves into the depths to which people will sink when battling with drug addiction. Another White Line continues on the path of addiction so prevalent in America.
Volume 3 opens with 'Open Up The Window (and let reality in)', a rollicking critique of our tendency toward self-deception. 'Broken Lullabies' chronicles the life of Sally, a flower child who followed the Grateful Dead around the country in a beat up van. 'Daddy Needs a Little Help' tells the story of an unemployed factory worker whose job has been shipped overseas. 'The Corporate Machine' discusses the dehumanizing effects of corporate consolidation. 'Preaching To The Choir' talks about the difficulty in breaking through the Us-versus-Them mentality. '21 in the 21st Century' tells the story of a second year college student who is confused and uncertain about the path he should take for the future. 'Disney World View' discusses the shallow and superficial lives of the McMansion set. 'Freedom Ain't Free' gives us a new spin on an old cliche. 'Bedford Village' describes the life of a caretaker who lost his son to the Vietnam War and his wife to cancer. 'Government Things' talks about the evils of corporate conflicts of interest in our government. 'Famous For Being Famous' was inspired by Paris Hilton's antics. 'Plasticville' discusses the mind-numbing effects of network TV watching. 'Dear Katrina' comments on the Federal Government's handling of this horrific natural disaster in New Orleans. 'Dover Darlin'' draws inspiration from the "breathtaking inanity" of the Dover School Board in the famous Intelligent Design Trial (Kitzmiller vs Dover School Board) which played out in Jefferson's backyard of Dover PA. 'Dear Santa' talks about a seven year old girl's Christmas wish list. 'Ten Mile Chunk of Cosmic Garbage' sends out a warning about the next big asteroid to hit the earth sometime in the (hopefully very distant) future. 'Talking 911 Terrorist Blues' is a hidden bonus track which talks about one of the most powerful sources of hatred and violence.