But upon listening to Peck’s music, it’s clear that he’s not just playing a game. Yes, he has his rollicking, Garth Brooks-style anthems, but there are plenty of moments where queerness and solitude creep into his lyrics, while his music takes on a haunting, melancholic tone. As if a duet with Shania Twain wasn’t enough, an appearance of his stirring “Dead of Night” on HBO’s latest sensation, Euphoria, seems destined to bring more eyes to Peck’s music, and at just the right moment.
Bronco almost doubles the length of his recorded output to date, and he takes advantage of the runtime to showcase every aspect of his music, from the haunting to the outright corny. It says a lot about the state of country music in its Flordia Georgia Line era that that this masked man easily exudes more personality than 90% of modern country stars. He does so by being utterly shameless about revelling in the campiest, silliest tendencies of outlaw country, filled with heartbroken songwriters who took themselves terribly seriously indeed.
Bronco’s first song, “Daytona Sand”, ends with him chanting out “M, I, double S, I, double S, I, double P, I!”, al la Bobbie Gentry, and the album is filled with plenty of rolling drums and handclaps to boot. The record also features plenty of lines where Peck – a Canadian – gently mocks his own obsession with Americana, like the moment he’s in a bar, speaking to a woman and “she tells me she don’t like Elvis / I say, “I want a little less conversation, please”.
Sometimes he plays it a little too straight, like on “Lafayette” where he declares “I recall somebody saying that there ain’t no cowboys left / well they ain’t met me”, and a couple of songs ar almost indistinguishable from the kind of fair you’d hear on Alabama radio stations any day of the week. But these occasional moments of cliche are decidedly corrected by the likes of “The Curse of the Blackened Eye”, a story of an abusive relationship where Peck recounts that “I sat around last year wishing so many times that I would die”. The chorus sees him break out a falsetto which shows the sheer range of his voice, and it cracks in just the right places; capturing the same dreamlike energy which made “Dead of Night” the perfect soundtrack for Euphoria’s nighttime rendezvous.
Peck’s band on this record is almost entirely comprised of Canadian indie rock group The Frigs, but despite their usual leanings, they do a masterful job of recreating the sound of country’s glory years, and provide the perfect setting for Peck to deviate from those song’s usual temperaments. The banjos and slide guitar of “Hexie Mountains” are ready made for the open road, and “C’Mon Baby, Cry” feels like an instant classic, urging for vulnerability and somehow bring Roy Orbison back to life in the process. It’s a tried and tested sound but Peck’s perspective feels utterly fresh, and suggests perhaps all of the glitz and camp are actually just Peck being true to himself.