There are many marvellous things about Orville Peck’s new six track EP, ‘Show Pony’, which shimmers as brightly as a cowboy’s pair of freshly polished spurs. The first is to do with the circumstances around its release: originally, we were supposed to hear it two months ago. Ever the activist, Peck delayed the EP’s so that he could spend his time raising money and awareness for the invigorated civil rights movement currently sweeping the States instead.
“We’re undergoing a huge overdue worldwide transformation thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement and that is mainly what I want to put my focus on at the moment,” the masked country singer said on social media at the start of June, keen to swap promo for protest. “The momentum is currently so strong, and it needs to keep going in order to dismantle the injustices of oppression, so if your voice hasn’t been heard yet just use it, or walk out and hear the protesters, and if you’re scared, tell them Orville sent you!”
Now ‘Show Pony’ has finally bolted from the stable, led by a razzle-dazzle duet with fellow Canadian country queen Shania Twain. Perhaps his most pop-leaning track so far, it eskews plugging into the dimly lit world he usually favours. Instead, ‘Legends Never Die’ is a full-on stadium country belter with a knowing wink to both artists’ LGBTQ+ fanbases – “you got nothing if you ain’t got pride,” their voices meet to croon. As flashy and ’90s as his iconic collaborator, Peck puts it even more simply: “as the kids say – it’s a bop.”
All out pop bop it might be, but the rest of ‘Show Pony’ trots around the same moody Roy Orbison territory that Peck perfected on last year’s ‘Pony’. First up is Proustian power ballad ‘Summertime’, while pensive piano and talk of empty highways and burning rubber give ‘Drive Me Crazy’ the feel of ‘Nebraska’-era Bruce Springsteen doing his best boy racer impression. And ‘No Glory In The West’ takes things down another notch, the simple strumming of an acoustic campfire guitar letting Peck’s melodramatic baritone and downbeat storytelling take centre stage.
‘Show Pony’s final furlong comes as an atmospheric version of Bobbie Gentry’s sassy anthem ‘Fancy ‘– possibly the only Grammy nominated song from the 1970s about a small town sex worker. Doomy and delicious, Peck’s powerful retelling doesn’t just let his stupidly good vocals shine, but also his innate showmanship. Someone cast this man in a movie already. Zorro: The Nashville Years, anyone?
Release date: August 14
Record label: Columbia