Jefferson Pepper

Jefferson Pepper

BandAmericanaSinger/Songwriter

Jefferson Pepper writes socially-conscious folk rock songs in the vein of John Prine, Neil Young, Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie, CCR and Bob Dylan. His 2008 album (American Evolution) was chosen as the BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR by reviewer Malcolm Carter of Pennyblack Music (UK).

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Biography

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 si

Lyrics

Christmas in Fallujah

Written By: Jefferson Pepper

CHRISTMAS IN FALLUJAH
c2005 Jefferson Pepper

It’s Christmas in Fallujah, to the victors go the spoils
We came to help the people, it’s not about the oil
I came here to Fallujah with presents in my sack
I bring the gift of freedom through unprovoked attack

That’s not the sound of reindeer up on your roof at night
We’re coming down your chimney with guns and blinding lights
We’re gonna take your husband, I’d like to tell you why
But I can’t speak your language, I’m too overwhelmed to try

But Uncle Sam made a list, he’s checking it twice
He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice
But sometimes the names, they get mixed up
If we get it right half the time that’s close enough

It’s Christmas in Fallujah, children snuggle in their beds
While the corpses of their parents dance around in their heads
Palaces and bridges, we burned them to the ground
‘Cause someone got a contract to rebuild the whole damned town

It’s Christmas in Fallujah, hear the bells begin to toll
I’m sorry about your mother, she’s somewhere down in the hole
We came here to Falujah to win your hearts and minds
But when we bombed your building your family was inside

Don’t blame it on us soldiers, we’re only doing what we’re told
Never had a spoon of silver, now I’ve got a broken heart of gold
And I’m gonna have to live with all these nightmares that I’ve seen
Never taught to know the difference between Osama and Hussein

But Uncle Sam made a list, he’s checking it twice
He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice
But sometimes the names, they get mixed up
If we get it right half the time that’s close enough

Back to 1999

Written By: Jefferson Pepper

BACK TO 1999
c2005 Jefferson Pepper

Living in your living room on a tattered dime store chair
The pungent smell of Kentucky bourbon perforates the air
And the thick, red velvet curtains, they keep out all the light
You don’t even know what week it is, or if it’s day or night

Once upon a time you had a family to love
And an upwardly mobile lifestyle that you were so proud of
Twenty long years in the factory, twenty years of punching the clock
You dumped it all into a portfolio of MCI and Enron stock

Surrounded by your souvenirs of failure and despair
You retreat inside of your own world like you don’t seem to care
You wish you had a time machine ‘cause that might change your life
You wanna go back to 1999

Though desperate and penniless you still had your work
Till the factory moved to Mexico and your luck got even worse
That’s when the drinking started, that’s when she said goodbye
And took your two boys with her, then something snapped inside

Now you’re sitting in the darkness with a blank stare on your face
Just imagining those strangers who brought you to this place
But they keep on getting richer and sleeping every night
On a bed made of your labor, it just does not seem right

Surrounded by your souvenirs of failure and despair
You retreat inside of your own world like you don’t seem to care
You wish you had a time machine ‘cause that might change your life
You wanna go back to 1999

Stranded

Written By: Jefferson Pepper

STRANDED
c2005 Jefferson Pepper

Modern day Neanderthals living in a cave
If Frank Lloyd Wright could see this blight
He’d roll over in his grave
We’ve got cookie cutter cubicles scattered on the plain
There’s trouble on the corner of Lonely Street and Main

I’ve been stranded, stranded, that’s how I feel
I’ve been branded and handed a really raw deal
Now my home town America has lost it’s appeal
Since the vinyl-clad gavel has landed, I’ve been stranded

The invention of the motor car is partially to blame
For the extinction of the village and the disjointed tracts that came
No neighborly conversations over garden walls
Just catatonic customers shuffling through the malls

You can’t walk to anything, you always have to drive
That’s great if you’re GM or Exxon, it keeps them both alive
But we humans are the losers with all this open space
We lost our sense of community, we lost our sense of place

I’ve been stranded, stranded, that’s how I feel
I’ve been branded and handed a really raw deal
Now my home town America has lost it’s appeal
Since the vinyl-clad gavel has landed, I’ve been stranded

Discography

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

Set List

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.