In 2005, Jefferson Pepper took out a second mortgage on the modest, wood-sided home he built in the hills of rural south-central Pennsylvania in order to finance the recording of his debut release Christmas in Fallujah. His inspiration was David Maples, a 21-year-old neighbor kid; A kid Jefferson and his wife had watched grow up; a kid who went along on family vacations; a kid who caught lightning bugs and frogs and played games in the backyard on warm summer nights. David was a dimpled dreamer with aspirations of becoming a doctor. With no money for college or medical school, David joined the Army to train as a medic. David was shipped off to Iraq.
Jefferson Pepper was angry.
As with many who watched the horrors of the Iraqi quagmire unfold, Jefferson felt helpless. So, he did what he had to do to communicate the feelings that would not be considered appropriate in polite conversation: he wrote songs.
The grandson of coal miners and farmers and the son of a mechanic, Jefferson Pepper has worked as a stock clerk in a grocery store, a factory worker, a janitor, a construction worker, a landscaper, a painter and a bricklayer. He grew up listening to gospel hymns in the Baptist church where his mother sang in the choir. Later, he discovered the music of The Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Woody Guthrie, Tom Waits, John Prine, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle, as well as alternative and punk artists such as Patti Smith, The Replacements, Nirvana and Talking Heads. These artists all left an indelible mark on his song writing. His subjects were the people and issues he knew best: His personal experiences, his firsthand observations of the nagging injustices of life in modern society. He told stories of America’s forgotten people: the working class Americans he identified with the most. Songs about tragedy, poverty, lost love, down and out dreamers, alcoholics and drug addicts, unemployed workers, prostitutes, feelings of isolation and restlessness in a culture that idolizes youth and materialism. Songs about the vast divide between rich and poor. Songs about the breakdown of family and community, of greedy corporations destroying small businesses and cashing in on the jingoistic rush to war. Songs about blind nationalism mixed with a profound love of his country. Mostly, he wrote about the things that bothered him.
The songs on Christmas in Fallujah explore the darker side of the American social and political landscape. Stylistically, the songs range from roots-rock and folk to alt country, often infused with punk’s energy. Stories are told from the vantage points of a disillusioned soldier (title track), a bloated defense contractor (M-16), a lover regretting a failed relationship (Bethlehem, PA), a restless man in a restless culture (Interstate Highway), an isolated byproduct of poor residential planning (Stranded), an unemployed factory worker (Back To 1999), a spurned boyfriend (Christmas Tree), a disillusioned child (Deceived), a grieving mother (Why?), a man pondering the military-industrial complex (Armageddon For Sale) and a widowed victim of Hiroshima (Plastic Illuminated Snowman). Two cover songs are included on the album: the traditional Soldier’s Joy and an amped-up, buzz-saw version of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land.
Christmas in Fallujah was released on a limited basis in October, 2005. By November, it had reached # 23 on the Freeform American Roots Radio Chart. By December, it had reached # 13 on the Euro Americana Chart. By January 2006, it had reached # 181 on the AMA Americana Radio Chart, # 17 on the Roots Music Report Roots Rock Radio Chart, # 10 on the Roots Music Report Top 100 Radio Chart and finally peaked at # 1 on the Roots Music Report Folk Radio Chart. Rave reviews began to pour in from music critics across America including reviews in the Fort Worth Weekly, The Harvard Independent and Slacker Country, as well as from The Netherlands (Hanx, Alt.Country.nl, Real Roots Café), Belgium (Rootstime), Italy (Il Popolo del Blues), Ireland (Whisperin and Hollerin) and England (Americana-UK), among others.. Geraint Jones of Comes With A Smile (UK) proclaimed Christmas in Fallujah “one of 2005's best.”
In March 2006, Jefferson completed a tour of New Zealand. He continues to play shows throughout the U.S. in support of Christmas in Fallujah, including a showcase in Austin, TX during South By Southwest, Millennium Music Conference and Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA (which was attended by 1.4 million people in 2006.)
His second project, 'American Evolution', a 50-song, 3-CD set, is his newest release. Volumes 1 and 2 were released in 2008, with volume 3 to follow in 2009. Volume 1 hit # 9 on the Euro Americana Chart and Volume 2 hit # 11. Reviewer Malcolm Carter (Pennyblack Music - UK), in his BEST OF 2008 list, called American Evolution Volume 2 the "best record of the year", with American Evolution Volume 1 coming in at # 4. The hit single from American Evolution Volume 1, 'Trail of Tears', received 1,500+ spins from American College radio during the second quarter of 2008, according to BMI statements.
For booking, interviews or other inquiries please email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the website at www.americanfallout.com or call (717) 938-4917.
Jefferson Pepper: lead and harmony vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, mandolin, harmonica and percussion.
The debut release (Christmas in Fallujah, 2005 American Fallout Records) features Chris Planas (Pagan Babies, Third Degree) on electric guitars and lap steel, Mike Argento on electric guitars, Scott Fisher on drums, Doctor Mo (Blind Joe Death) on bass, Ray Eicher on pedal steel, John Fritchey (Tarnation, Wayne Supergenius, The Polins) on electric guitars, Joe Allison on fiddle and mandolin and John Farmer (Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Del McCoury) on dobro and banjo.
His sophomore effort, (American Evolution) features Fats Kaplin (Kane Welch Kaplin, Roy Bookbinder, Pure Prarie League, Kristie Rose), Tim Lorsch (Kris Kristofferson, Mary Gauthier, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, Allison Moorer, Ray Price, Rodney Crowell, Sam Baker), 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), Bill Newton, Randy Stewart, Rod Goelz, Bill Nork, Kenny Geist, Thom Bissey and Jon Shain. Additional recording on Volumes 2 and 3 was completed at Bull Creek Productions in Nashville, TN by Tim Lorsch.
Christmas in Fallujah, Limited release on October 4, 2005 on American Fallout Records. International Release on November 21, 2006.
Recorded at Stress Free Studios
Engineered by Marshall Deasy
Mixed by Marshall Deasy and Jefferson Pepper
Produced by Jefferson Pepper
The debut album from Jefferson Pepper explores the darker side of the American social and political landscape with songs that are both profound and undeniably catchy. Stories are told from the vantage point of, among others, a disillusioned soldier stationed in Iraq (Christmas in Fallujah), an unethical defense contractor growing fat on the breast of the nanny-state (M-16), a regretful lover lamenting a failed relationship (Bethlehem, PA), the collective restlessness of our culture (Interstate Highway), one man's loathing of dehumanizing, homogenizing architecture and short-sighted residential planning (Stranded), an unemployed factory worker (Back To 1999), a spurned lover (Christmas Tree), a disillusioned child (Deceived), and a grieving mother (Why?). An amped-up version of Woody Guthrie's 'This Land Is Your Land' puts it all into context. References range from Enron, Osama Bin Laden and Woodrow Wilson to Frank Lloyd Wright, Santa Claus and the Wizard of Oz.
'Christmas in Fallujah' is eclectic Americana music as a vehicle for social change.
The album reached # 1 on the Roots Music Report Folk radio chart, # 13 on the Euro Americana chart, # 23 on the Freeform American Roots chart, among others. The reviewer Geraint Jones of 'Comes With A Smile' (UK) pronounced 'Christmas in Fallujah' "one of 2005's best."
2008: American Evolution Volumes I and II
2009: American Evolution Volume III
Pennyblack Music (UK)
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Don’t be misled. There are bright, shiny baubles on the cover, song titles containing the words Chri...Don’t be misled. There are bright, shiny baubles on the cover, song titles containing the words Christmas and Bethlehem, even one song called ‘Christmas Tree’ and the whole package is festively clad in red. But this is no 'Phil Spector Christmas Album' and the sound of Nat King Cole couldn’t be further away. The toy soldiers lurking behind those Christmas decorations on the cover, the banner declaring “It’s Not About The Oil” held up by a smiling Christmas elf on the CD inlay and other song titles like ‘M-16’ paint a truer picture that all is not well with this world, Christmas or not, and serves as notice that Jefferson Pepper is not about to get all sentimental on us.
Billed as "an Americana Folk-Punk Troubadour" by his record company which is without a doubt the best way of describing new talent Pepper, this album was released in some countries last year and is now finally available in the UK through American Fallout Records.
Pepper has been writing songs for 20 years but ‘Christmas In Fallujah’ is his debut album. He financed the recording by taking out a second mortgage on the home he built in the hills of rural Pennsylvania. The album is dedicated to his neighbour, 21 year old David Maple. Maple joined the army to train as a medic and is now serving with the US army in Iraq. The title song of this album is the tale of a soldier stationed in Iraq and is quite simply one of the most effecting and heartbreaking songs you will ever hear. It’s also one of the best anti-war / protest songs / call it whatever you like ever to be recorded. Ever. As this is in the year that Neil Young also released one of his best ever albums in ‘Living With War’, one wonders if Young had heard ‘Christmas In Fallujah’ before he recorded that album. The two singer-songwriters obviously feel the same way about a lot of things in the world today.
But while Young returned to the electric guitar rocking stance for his album Pepper has taken a much broader sweep. For starters not all the songs are about the evils of war. Pepper touches upon failed relationships along with his feelings on all that is wrong with his country. Then on a musical level he touches a number of bases; acoustic laments rub shoulders with what is best described as a punk-rock version of Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land’ before taking in the traditional instrumental ‘Soldier’s Joy’, all mandolin and fiddle along the way. But not once does Pepper let his obvious talent for writing strong melodies with either cutting or heartbreaking lyrics slip.
Comparisons to the young Bob Dylan are unavoidable really. Again, one can’t help but wonder if some of the praise Dylan is receiving for his latest album shouldn’t really be directed towards Pepper. In spite of all the recent critical acclaim it’s been a good while since Dylan cut anything as good and strong as Pepper has here.
Space doesn’t allow a track by track review which is what this album really deserves so to concentrate on just a couple of the songs I’d choose the aforementioned title track as the first one. And that really demands that the lyrics are printed in full with Pepper twisting the lyrics of certain Christmas songs in the chorus of ‘Christmas In Fallujah’(“Uncle Sam’s made a list he’s checking it twice…sometimes the names they get mixed up, if we get it right half the time that’s close enough”). This is after the song opens with a sad, lonely fiddle and Pepper taking on the role of a soldier (“I bring the gift of freedom through unprovoked attack”). We later hear the same soldier declare “I’m sorry about your mother; she’s somewhere down in a hole”. I can only repeat what I wrote earlier; the song is simply heartbreaking. You can almost hear Steve Earle thinking “Wish I’d written that!”
But to show another side of Pepper’s writing I’d choose the failed relationship song which is ‘Bethlehem, PA’. With dobro, mandolin, fiddle and pedal steel it’s an alt-country gem of a song and Pepper again shows he can write lyrics that few can match (“She never asked for anything, I gave her what she asked”). All wrapped up in such a gorgeous melody; the song is simply stunning.
The album is very eclectic as said before; it’s just amazing that Pepper can take on all genres and excel at them all. But by doing so Pepper has made the best album of the year so far and as November is looming it’s highly unlikely that anything else yet to be released this year is even going to come remotely close.
It’s an absolute gem of an album and just forget the Christmas connections; this one will be played all year round and for many years to come.
Comes With A Smile (UK)
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Jefferson Pepper, Christmas In Fallujah, American Fallout Records First off, please dismiss any pre...Jefferson Pepper, Christmas In Fallujah, American Fallout Records
First off, please dismiss any preconceptions implied by either the artwork – baubles and toy soldiers, or the title, as this album is so much more than a mere novelty seasonal offering to be dug out reluctantly for a tokenistic spin each December. Given, it’s an undeniably slightly askew concept to risk branding your debut album so festively, but beneath that veneer you’ll find an album abundant with impressive material that’s as politically charged as it is entertaining, which can be experienced throughout the year, yet depressingly will probably be as thematically relevant next Christmas as it is today. Hailing from rural Southern Pennsylvania, Jefferson Pepper is a seasoned performer of over 20 years. With incisively written social commentary providing the bedrock for his songs it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, given the album’s title that Pepper offers a somewhat alternative perspective on current American foreign policy as well as issues closer to home. Either way Jefferson Pepper proves to be a fascinating commentator with this mightily impressive set. Crisply produced and effortlessly capable of switching from the full-on rock assault of M-16 to the comparatively pastoral country of Bethlehem, PA, or the traditional old-time of Soldier’s Joy and back again via a barnstorming version of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land, with a slew of fine players in tow, ‘Christmas In Fallujah’ collectively makes for an album that is as eclectic as it is challenging, yet catchy as hell throughout. Admitting that his musical mentors include the likes of Son Volt, Emmylou Harris, The Ramones, Tom Waits, Neil Young, Talking Heads and Johnny Cash among others, certainly promises a lot, but for once Jefferson Pepper is someone who actually delivers. Melding all manner of Americana-oriented influences – roots rock, country, folk and bluegrass infused with a smidgen of punk's energy, ‘Christmas In Fallujah’ repeatedly hits the button and after 20 years, as another year comes to a close, Jefferson Pepper has delivered one of 2005’s best. Geraint Jones December 2005
Whisperin and Hollerin (Ireland)
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Our Rating: 9/10 Most of us had resigned ourselves to the fact that it was only the older stagers l...Our Rating: 9/10
Most of us had resigned ourselves to the fact that it was only the older stagers like Neil Young who could be bothered to make any kind of stand about Iraq and/ or the Bush Administration, so to find a new, committed and compassionate voice of the calibre of JEFFERSON PEPPER’S howling decisively in the dark is something of a boon to say the least.
Not least because the pointedly-titled ‘Christmas In Fallujah’ is an Americana classic-in-waiting from one of the most politically-charged, gifted and angry singer/ songwriters to hit us from across the pond since Steve Earle. Indeed, it was the drafting of Jefferson’s childhood friend David Maples (as an American Army medic to Iraq) which was the catalyst in persuading JP to record this excellent debut album with the help of influential friends such as guitarist John Fritchey (Tarnation, Wayne Supergenius) and dobro/ banjo player John Farmer (Bill Monroe, Del McCoury) in his native Pennsylvania with producer Marshall Deasy at the controls.
Musically, the results are an energized and focussed melting pot of rock, country and punk, with liberal dashes of Appalachian folk and bluegrass tipped in as and when required. Inevitably, the ghosts of protest singers past such as Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs spring to mind, but also maverick roots trailblazers such as Steve Earle, John Prine and Townes Van Zandt, and the rock’n’roll spirit of cross-pollinators like Uncle Tupelo, The Replacements and The Bottle Rockets is also guzzled down like the potent firewater it surely is.
Great though the backdrops are, it’s mostly courtesy to his lyrical/ observational skills that Jefferson Pepper really scores, though. Indeed, ‘Christmas In Fallujah’ deserves its’ future-classic status for the title track alone: a devastating anti-Iraq campaign anthem, kissed by skirling violin and the most poignant observations (“I’ve got to take your husband and I’d like to tell you why / But I can’t speak the language and I’m too overwhelmed to try”) we’re liable to come across when relating to Dubya’s corporate-sponsored atrocities in the Middle East. It’s certainly the finest and most erudite commentary on American foreign policy this writer’s heard since X’s wonderful ‘I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts’ and it’s compelling lyric about “my bombs, my guns, their blood on my hands.”
So for this track alone we should bear JP in mind, but the great news is that he has a whole brood more where this has come from, not least when he lays into the equally contemptuous characters hanging out in tunes like the dirty, groovy ‘M-16’ (concerning corrupt and bloated defence contractors) and the slow and predatory, Neil Young-style creep of the ominous ‘Armageddon For Sale’, where the anti-Dubya lyrical barbs (“George had a revelation on a cold and frosty morn/ Arise, ye sons of Satan and move on!”) are surely enough for the FBI to open a file on our hero.
However bilious JP may be, though, his ire is always tempered with compassion and tenderness and his work is every bit as effective when his band bring it down for tracks like the pedal-steel assisted country canter of ‘Back To 1999’ where Pepper’s vivid portrait of the reclusive, apartment-bound guy who’s lost it all since redundancy (“surrounded by souvenirs of failure and despair”) is – in its’ way – every bit as tragic as the lot of the guy who spends his days communicating with the speaking clock in Scott Walker’s ‘Time Operator.’ Great though this is, it’s probably usurped by the gentle, hymnal Americana of ‘Why?’, where dignified fiddle, sympathetic steel and chapel organ forge the perfect, graceful tribute to those lost in action as a result of the senseless events in Iraq.
It’s not all relentlessly political, of course. Indeed, like Billy Bragg, Pepper sometimes reserves his best work for his more personal observations and tracks like the spurned-lover scenario of ‘Christmas Tree’ or the melancholic, lovelorn ‘Bethlehem, PA’ which is caressed beautifully by Ray Eicher’s gorgeous silver shards of pedal steel. Nonetheless, he’s in no mood to shy away from his feelings and brings it all together for – fittingly – a buzzsaw, punkabilly thrash through Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land’ which sounds like the filthiest alliance of The Minutemen, Mojo Nixon and The Ramones imaginable. I was about to say it’s the ideal way to conclude the record, but there’s also a ‘hidden’ track called ‘Plastic Illuminated Snowman’ which makes emotional reference to a widowed Hiroshima victim and mirrors the wartime follies still being perpetrated in the name of modern day America.
You shouldn’t get the wrong impression, of course. Jefferson Pepper – rightly – loves the land he’s from, but has been galvanised into speaking out about Iraq by the treatment of his fellow man. He’s a brave, inspired and erudite man who’s unafraid of being muzzled by corporate America and has the guts to be defiant. It would be easy to paint him as some kind of ‘new’ Springsteen, shaping himself as a blue collar hero, but I doubt very much such a notion was ever the point. ‘Christmas In Fallujah’ is a personally-motivated, politically-resonant debut that all right-minded roots-loving individuals can relate to and will surely return to for years to come. One can only pray David Maples makes it home safely to hear what his friend has recorded in his absence.
author: Tim Peacock
The Harvard Independent (USA)
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Pepper doesn't address war in the generic terms John Lennon or Marvin Gaye use in their virtually cl...Pepper doesn't address war in the generic terms John Lennon or Marvin Gaye use in their virtually classic holiday songs. He holds nothing back in his musically light and folksy assault on the hypocrisy of contemporary foreign policy. From "palaces and bridges, we've burned them all down" to "never taught to know the difference between Osama and Hussein," the specificity of this song makes it rise far above any other peace-on-Earth carol. By taking the lyrics of many classic Christmas jingles and turning them on their heads ("Uncle Sam made a list; he's checking it twice;" "that's not the sound of reindeer up on your roof"), the songwriter uses mainstream seasonal culture to present a stinging commentary on precisely that culture from which he sought inspiration. Pepper avoids the mistake of generic, and therefore bland, complaint in favor of a stark yet nuanced attack of the Iraqi quagmire. Perfect party music, is it not?
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8 out of 10 It’s taken Pennsylvania born Jefferson Pepper over twenty years to record his debut r...8 out of 10
It’s taken Pennsylvania born Jefferson Pepper over twenty years to record his debut record despite having written songs for the duration – you might then expect the album to have a slightly more professional impact than your average debut release, and indeed Pepper’s experience and depth of feeling resonates throughout the twelve tracks of this not only personal but label debut. The American Fallout label promotes artists “of integrity who make music on their own terms,” and if Pepper’s a good example of what they mean by that, then it’s going to be a label to look out for with interest in years to come. Pepper himself has a distinctive voice with perhaps a more feminine side to it than your standard formula protest singer, which actually adds to the style and delivery of the record as a whole. His subject matter is often poignant - “Christmas in Fallujah,” the title track, is an ironic take on last year’s brutal assault on the Iraqi stronghold which resulted in the deaths of many thousands, and “Back to 1999” explores a factory worker’s feelings of inadequacy following redundancy (Mexican workers presumably being cheaper to hire than American). But for all the potential cries from the usual sources of not being patriotic enough, Pepper shows his solidarity with the ordinary American man or woman, civilian or soldier, in a way that has far more of an authentic punch than a thousand Cheney or Rumsfield ad hoc visits to packed anonymous tents in the middle of nowhere. Right now more than ever, middle America needs a storyteller like Pepper to let them know what’s going on behind the Fox headlines. Delivered with such compassion and genuine feeling, and with hooks to kill for, he hits the spot every time.
Slacker Country (USA)
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Funny to review a “Christmas” CD with summer coming on strong in most parts of the country but we ju...Funny to review a “Christmas” CD with summer coming on strong in most parts of the country but we just had to. Our excuse: we got this one after Christmas. And, it’s not your typical Christmas CD. You can tell that right off with the title track “Christmas in Fallujah.” Doesn’t exactly give you visions of sugar plums, does it? This one also makes a nice companion piece to Neil Young’s new release “Living With War.” Jefferson Pepper’s music ranges from folky to country rock to almost punk. The melodies are insidiously appealing. If you’re not paying close attention, you might miss the fact that it’s a scathing indictment of the current U.S. administration. Yeah, right. The lyrics are as sarcastic and pointedly critical as, I don’t know, Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. The title track, in particular, brings home the misery that the people in Iraq are living with day after day as we “give the gift of freedom, through unprovoked attack.” How’s that for bitter irony? The line that sticks in my head is: “if we get it right half the time, that’s close enough.” Talk about a casual attitude toward collateral damage. And the violin the song starts with is so so sweet, providing dramatic contrast with the harshness of the lyrics and the story they tell. Pepper asks the question that gets to the heart of what America seems to be all about these days ---- “what’s wrong with me making a shitload of money on the side?” That pretty much sums up the philosophy of our administration. Inside the CD, there’s a picture of a Christmas elf holding up a banner that says “It’s not about the oil.” Of course it isn't. Other tracks deal with the way our culture grooms boys to go to war, the social implications of urban sprawl, our nationally short attention span, conspicuous disposable consumption, the economic depression, stuff like that. The entire CD reeks of disillusionment. Plus it sounds good. It's a debut album that is guaranteed to stay with you.
Rock N Reel Magazine (UK)
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Jefferson Pepper debuts with an almost perfectly formed collection of songs that take you deep into ...Jefferson Pepper debuts with an almost perfectly formed collection of songs that take you deep into his psyche and, I hope, the feelings and opinion of blue-collar America as their country sinks deeper and deeper into the morass of an illegal and immoral war. From the striking cover artwork to the strength of the material on offer Pepper, a native of southern Pennsylvania has created an album that hits home with its melodic and lyrically immediacy. The title track, a poignant fiddle-coloured, mid-paced roots-rocker, is quite possibly one of the most effective contemporary anti-war songs I’ve heard. Written from the point of view of a young American soldier, it exposes the brutality and human cost of war, with biting lyrics such as ‘We came here to Fallujah to win your hearts and mind but when we bombed your building the family was inside’.
Elsewhere, the album, graced by pedal steel, fiddle, mandolin and the dobro and banjo of John Farmer (Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, Del McCoury) is a thoroughly engaging blend of gutsy country and roots-rock, driven by a punk-influenced energy exemplified in cuts like the sprawling rock of ‘M16’, the pedal-steel-garnished, growling country rock of ‘Interstate Highway’ and the gentle, poignant ‘Why?’ Pepper demonstrates his versatility further with the superb picking-fest that is trad cut ‘Soldier’s Joy’ and on an angry country-punk reworking of Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land’.
5/5 Sean McGhee
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The first bite. The title track opens the album as Pepper wryly adopts the persona of a disillusione...The first bite. The title track opens the album as Pepper wryly adopts the persona of a disillusioned soldier serving in Iraq, supposedly bringing the gift of freedom in his sack, talking how it’s not Santa coming down the chimney in a blinding light, how Uncle Sam’s naughty and nice list often gets the names wrong and how everything’s been torn down to serve the interests of those with the rebuilding contracts. Imagine Barry Sadler’s Ballad of the Green Berets, then flip it on its head.
With a vaguely Dylan/Earle nasal vocal and a musical framework that takes jangly Americana folk rock as its centre and goes off at punk and bluegrass tangents, the Pennsylvania born Baptist raised Pepper keeps up the protest themes pretty much throughout, the snarling punk of M-16 mixing up single-minded defence contractors and the way kids are indoctrinated into violence with war toys, the moody Armageddon For Sale (with its reference to Genesis and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway) noting how freedom is often used as a blind for other agendas, and the organ and pedal steel slow waltzing Why? telling of the grieving mother of a dead soldier.
It’s not all about war though, Pepper’s concerns embrace social and personal issues too. The cruising guitar rock Interstate Highway addresses how consumer culture drives the American Dream, the jerky rocking Stranded laments the state of contemporary American architecture and urban planning, while Back To 1999 is a sad country rolling portrait of a worker surrounded by his ‘souvenirs of failure and despair’, fallen into booze soaked decline after losing his money in the Enron scandal and made redundant when the factory relocated to a cheaper work force in Mexico.
Disillusion rears its head again on Deceived, using a child’s discovery that Santa doesn’t exist and mom and dad lied as an image of how we’re constantly fed bull about the Yellow Brick Road. And there’s relationships heartache too with the angry rejected lover in the uptempo rocking Christmas Tree and the much more forlorn poignancy of the keening Bethelem, PA.
The album’s rounded out with a fierce punk bluegrassed cover of Woody’s This Land Is Your Land in the manner of Jason & The Scorchers and The Pogues, a lovely instrumental banjo, mandolin and fiddle reading of the traditional Soldier’s Joy and the hidden bonus Plastic Illuminated Snowman, a bluesy number about a survivor of Hiroshima and a Japan ‘basked in the glow of American fallout.’ Unlikely to rival Slade, Bing or Wham in the list of Christmas musical favourites, even so it’s a welcome alternative voice to the usual chestnuts roasting by the open fire.
Mike Davies November 2006
Billy Bob (Belgium)
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Style : Americana Rate (1-5) : **** (4 Stars) Jefferson Pepper: Christmas in Fallujah - CD; America...Style : Americana Rate (1-5) : **** (4 Stars)
Jefferson Pepper: Christmas in Fallujah - CD; American Fallout Records; AF001
Album kindly submitted by G-Promotions
Political protest albums are out of fashion since the late sixties or early seventies and with an occasional upraise once in a while, the genre died with the Vietnam War.
So when was the last time that you bought album full of political protest songs? Yeah you're right, you simply can't remember! Well I can't for sure.
And to be honest I'm not sure if that is a good thing. Especially with a world gone mad one should expect to hear more protest after all, but it really seems the genre died years ago. But not for Jefferson Pepper. The man has been writing poignant songs for the last twenty years but somehow never recorded a full album, until last year. The reason to do this for Jefferson was rather personal. His neighbour kid David (a 21 year old kid that is) always dreamed of becoming a doctor, but he didn't have the money at all to go to college. In a desperate act he joined the army to train as a medic, but was shipped of to Iraqi instead.
Angry and helpless Jefferson reacted the one way he could: writing songs and letting the people know about all the wrong in the world. As an audience you can always go two directions with political protest albums, either you agree with the lyrics or you disapprove. But even if you can't agree with his vision, you can't deny the fact that Christmas in Fallujah is great album! The tunes are right, the music is ok & lots of songs have enough hooks to stick in your head for the rest of the day. Musically, the album is inspired by people like Steve Earle, Woody Guthrie or Hank Williams, infested with touches of punk and Baptist church songs. A brilliant mix of razor sharp lyrics and straightforward roots oriented music is what you might expect on this album. Influences for his texts go as far as Santa Claus, The Wizard of Oz and Osama Bin Laden. With lyrics about a disillusioned soldier, unemployment, collective restlessness, bloated defence contractors and Hiroshima victims this album is by all means a worthy the name of a protest album. To complete the collection of very interesting self-penned songs, Jefferson Pepper included two covers as well. The traditional Soldiers Joy & Woody Guthrie's This Land is your land! Highlights on the album are without doubt "M-16", "Interstate Highway" and the bitter dark "Armageddon for Sale"
A must for every true music fan!
Mr Blue Boogie
Ft. Worth Weekly (USA)
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Here are some of the assumptions that Jefferson Pepper makes on his new, rocking, hard-folk c.d., Ch...Here are some of the assumptions that Jefferson Pepper makes on his new, rocking, hard-folk c.d., Christmas in Fallujah: War is bad, we’re all just tools of the mega-corporations, and simply being human in the 21st century is frustrating.
For someone who hasn’t heard it all before, maybe Pepper’s c.d.’s is pretty meaningful. For those of us who’ve either lived through or are aware of Woody Guthrie’s Depression Era songs for the common man, the socially conscious R&B of the late ’60s/early ’70s, and the anti-Vietnam rock of the same era, Pepper comes off as just a little green.
But that doesn’t mean his viewpoints aren’t valid. The title song shares a once-naïve soldier’s growing cynicism about the Iraq war and his mission. On the even more negative “Armageddon for Sale,” Pepper pounds politicians and other power brokers. On the rest of the c.d., the young singer-songwriter manages to take some personal shots, while railing against gas guzzlers, Big Business, and even modern architecture’s tendency to both isolate people and leave them with no sense of place.
The spirit of Christmas in Fallujah is complemented by the instrumentation — clangy electric guitars and ominous rhythms, along with fiddle, dobro, mandolin, and other folky touches. Pepper’s voice is often grating, but when talkin’ war, a rough edge is apropos.
One of the c.d.’s most intriguing tracks is Pepper’s punk — and totally fitting — version of Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” For the politically liberal music lover on your shopping list, Christmas in Fallujah might be the perfect gift. — Tom Geddie
Typical set list is about 90% originals, depending on the venue. House concerts are generally two 45-minute sets. Originals from the debut album 'Christmas in Fallujah' as well as from 'American Evolution'. Covers include songs by Neil Young, John Prine, Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie, Ryan Adams, Slaid Cleaves, The Louvin Brothers, Johnny Cash, etc.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.