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Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants - Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants

Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants, LP

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

CHRIS Shiflett is, of course, best known as the lead guitarist of Foo Fighters – but he’s also a talented and richly diverse singer-songwriter in his own right.

Aside from his Foo commitments, he’s also the lead singer of Jackson United and now Chris Shiflett & The Dead Presidents.

Steeped in his love for classic country artists such as Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, as well as rockabilly (Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran), and deep-rooted rock bands (The Rolling Stones, The Replacements), this new album is packed with soulful pedal steel- and twang guitar-accented songs.

All of the songs are rooted in Americana values and adhere to classic values, such as album standout, God Damn, which emerges as a rousing rock anthem with country elements that evokes the spirit of Tom Petty and just plain demands to be played loud. It’s got some of the best guitar work on the LP, a stirring chorus and a great sense of lyricism. Shiflett delivers the goods with plenty of emotion.

In contrast, there’s the pedal steel and mandolin-lined country-tinged heartache of Bandaged, which wears its pain on its heart and also impresses.

Get Along combines chiming keys and ringing guitars to deliver another of the album’s easily enjoyable listens, while Helsinki opens proceedings with a rousing guitar flourish and proceeds to deliver a breezy listen. It also underlines his guitar prowess and conjures further comparisons with classic Tom Petty.

If I’m honest, I preferred the album when it kept things more rock focused, with some of the deeper forays into country failing to inspire me in quite the same way.

But there’s no denying Shiflett’s love or knowledge of the genres he’s honouring, with An Atheists Prayer a fine example of the quality of his songwriting. He can tell a darn good yarn. Baby, Let It Out is another highlight worth checking out.

Shiflett wrote the songs on Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants over the course of 2008-9, inspiration first striking when a friend asked him to perform at Orange County’s punk-rockabilly Hootenanny festival in 2008.

After re-immersing himself in his Americana and old country music collection to prepare a short set – and then playing a brief acoustic tour with friend Joey Cape of Lagwagon – he began writing what eventually became the new album.

Recorded at the Foo Fighters’ Studio 606 in Los Angeles, CA, this past December and January, the core band is Shiflett (vocals, guitar), 606 house engineer John Lousteau (drums, in addition to engineering) and Derek Silverman (keyboards).

The album’s additional instrumentation was performed by an array of fine musicians, including Davey Faragher (Elvis Costello and The Imposters, Jenny Lewis, John Hiatt) on bass, Greg Leisz (Wilco, Lucinda Williams, Whiskeytown) on pedal steel, Stevie Blacke (Beck, Weezer, Colbie Caillat) on violin and mandolin, and Audra Mae on backing vocals. A super group of sorts then… and one that’s worthy of your attention.

Read our interview with Chris Shiflett

Download picks: Helsinki, Bandaged, God Damn, Baby, Let It Out

Track listing:

  1. Helsinki
  2. Get Along
  3. Bandaged
  4. God Damn
  5. Burning Lights
  6. An Atheists Prayer
  7. Not Going Down Alone
  8. Baby, Let It Out
  9. Death March