Pepper McGowanOriginally performed as Pepper Acton
Country of origin:
Type of music generally:
Most recent release, marrow (2003, a longer re-release of her 1998 ep); most recent release of entirely new material, Bad Stars (2001)
Website and webjournal gone; only webpresence as of 1/09 are her CDBaby pages for Bad Star and for Marrow
A fierce Robin Holcomb, or the Tori Amos of "Icicle". (Neile)
Own, occasional covers
Imagine if Robin Holcomb had continued with the style of her work from her first self-titled album, or if Tori Amos was working in the style of "Icicle" but more urgently than meditatively.... Wonderful stuff—at least I think so. Pepper's style is energetic and impressionistic, in her vocal style, her piano work, and her lyrics. Her voice is not syncopated with the piano and I find it effective in the same way that Robin Holcomb is—the varying over the piano line creates an intriguing movement for me and helps me find her work rich when it's just her and her piano. Like Tori Amos, it sounds as though the piano is an extension of her voice. Makes for powerful music. I can see not liking her music (well, I couldn't until Marion described her experience listening to her and now I think I understand but I still think Pepper's work is evocative and brilliant). Maybe it's her jazz/honkytonk timing that bugs people? I love it, and it has stood the test of time of for me. Emotionally evocative, this is delightfully stripped down as far as production goes (mostly just Pepper and her piano), but rich and full as far as sound and emotion goes. Highly recommended.
Comments about live performance:
I caught her act at the Indiegrrl show in Chicago a month or two ago. She plays piano, and both her songs, and her talk between songs, are marvelous. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Recommended first album:
Any you can find—they're all good
1998—Sound of the Sea, P.O. Box 18078, Cleveland OH 44118, U.S.A.—SOS 13
Mail order from the above address or at her shows
Pepper McGowan—vocals, piano
Dick Acton and Uncle Feeney Acton—harmony
Pepper McGowan and Alan Grandy
Okay, don't look too hard at the cover, but do listen hard to the music. This is a girl and her piano, yes, but get past the superficial resemblance to Tori Amos (I mean it used to be that any woman with a piano seemed to sound like Kate Bush, now it's Tori). Anyway, this is a brief but individual, powerful, emotionally affecting collection of songs. This isn't an album that everyone will like—which is what always happens when an artist isn't catering to the popular taste—but those who like her will love her. I do. For me it's the combination of the interesting piano work, Pepper's direct voice, and the fascinating, evocative lyrics. Wow. Go to the website, listen up, and buy this. (Neile)
2001—Inky Midnight Records, PO Box 43583, Cleveland, OH 44143, U.S.A—ink0000000001
Pepper McGowan—piano, vocals
Bad Stars is a beautiful, bluesy, heartbreak of an album. Includes covers of the 19th century pop song "And the Band Played On" (the Casey song)", Prince's "When U Were Mine", Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising", Michael Penn's "Long Way Down", and U2's "All I Want is You". It's one of those albums that grows on you more the more you hear it, gentle barbs sinking under your skin so gently you don't feel it happening. It's sad, yearning, wounded but tough, and even with the nearly half the album consisting of covers it feels like a deeply personal album. (Neile)
2003—Inky Midnight Music
Pepper McGowan—vocals, piano
This has all the tracks of the 1998 version (in a slightly different order), and adds three new songs before the final track. I won't repeat myself about the previous version as you can read my comments above; the new songs are equally strong, and make this an even fuller, deeper album. "Novocaine Moon" and "False Time" are perhaps a little quieter and more contemplative, adding that dimension to the collection, and "Burn" is another fierce song. In total, this expanded version of the album is even more powerful than the first, which is saying a lot indeed. (Neile)
DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.
|Entry last updated 2009-01-07 22:29:25.
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