Artist: Pegi Young
Label: Baltimore Thrush
Release Date: 02/17/2017
Ah, the break-up album. Most are somewhere between the viciously subtle and ragingly vitriolic. Pegi’s is certainly not subtle; she is very direct, often angry, but calms enough to find some forgiveness, resilience, and self-directed regret. Nonetheless, even though it usually does not approach the scathing tone of Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks or the Thompsons’ Shoot Out the Lights, it has those moments too.
With her band, The Survivors, led by her songwriting partner, Muscle Shoals icon Spooner Oldham, Young offers a mix of originals and some uniquely interpreted covers. Right away, if the title didn’t give it away, you know where Young is going. The opening track, “Why,” has these lines, “Why’d you have to ruin my life? Why’d you have to be so mean?” Most the album was written in the wake of Pegi’s 2014 divorce from Neil Young after 36 years of marriage. “Writing [Raw] was very cathartic for me,” Young says. “What happened was real, but I also look at this record as having a universal quality to it. I’m certainly not the only one to go through a late-in-life divorce, and I’m not going to be the last.”
“Up to Here, and covers like “Just When I Needed You Most” and “Trying to Live My Life Without You” continue the theme. Yet, some covers go in different directions. Young says, “I’ve begun to look at this record as a soundtrack to the seven stages of grief. We all have our inside voice and our outside voice and I chose to let more of my inside voice out on this record,” she says. “And each song could be sung by either party.” Self-regret appears in “Too Little Too Late” and “Gave My Best to You.” She goes with classic womanly determination in her rocking take of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking.” She expressed forgiveness through Don Henley’s “The Heart of the Matter.” Her emotive cover of Ray Charles’ “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” coupled with some of the others show that Young can merge the devastating heartbreak with blinks of humor too.
The Survivors are Oldham on keys, and other Muscle Shoals-based musicians including guitarist Kevin Holly (veteran of Little Richard’s band), drummer Phil Jones, and the newest band member, bassist Shonna Tucker, formerly of the Drive-by Truckers. With the exception of Tucker, this is the same core band that played with her on 2014’s Lonely in a Crowded Room.
Young, now a grandmother, with the divorce now in the rear view mirror, is not content to just relax. She’s looking forward to touring this album with her band and will be appearing at SXSW. As the simple title conveys, expect her to be emotional but in a self-restrained way.