Orville Peck Stampede: Vol. 1 Review: A Slip of the Mask

The album reflects both the singer’s dedication to the genre and his desire not to be confined by it.

Orville Peck, Stampede Vol. 1
Photo: Ben Prince

Following the postponement of his 2023 tour for health-related reasons and his departure from Columbia Records, Orville Peck attempts something of a reset with Stampede: Vol. 1. A seemingly straightforward project consisting of seven duets, the album reflects both the gay South African country singer’s dedication to the genre and his desire not to be confined by it. And as a symbol of this newfound sense of agency, Peck altered his trademark leather mask to reveal much more of his face (though still covering his eyes) in his live performances and videos.

While Peck’s vocals drew comparisons to that of an Elvis impersonator when he emerged on the scene with 2019’s Pony, he’s smartly chosen guest artists on Stampede: Vol. 1 whose voices effectively complement his own. On “How Far Will We Take It,” for instance, Noah Cyrus’s higher range provides a nice contrast to Peck’s deep, husky tone.

Musically, the album isn’t always as savvy. A midtempo, country-tinged cover of “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” featuring Sir Elton John himself, lacks the energy of John’s 1973 original. Elsewhere, the reggaeton beat of “Miénteme,” which also features pseudo-mariachi horns, feels thin and canned. Peck and Alison Russell’s jazzy “Chemical Sunset,” on the other hand, is a genre exploration whose gothic undercurrent yields more unexpected results.

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Even better, a cover of Ned Sublette’s 1981 song “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Very Fond of Each Other,” featuring Willie Nelson, queers the iconography of country music. Originally covered by Nelson in 2006, the song conflates gayness and gender nonconformity (“A small town don’t like it when someone falls between sexes…Inside every cowboy, there’s a lady that’d love to slip out”) in a way that reflects the gender norms of the early ’80s. In a modern context, though, it’s also possible to interpret the song through a more contemporary trans lens.

Like “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” with its references to juvenile delinquents, the Sublette song fits squarely in Peck’s world of gay drifters and drag queens. Like those figures, Peck continues to search for his place in Nashville. And ironically, for an artist who’s had to prove his credentials, he sounds more assured within the genre than when venturing outside it.

Score: 
 Label: Warner  Release Date: May 10, 2024  Buy: Amazon

Steve Erickson

Steve Erickson lives in New York and writes regularly for Gay City News, Cinefile, and Nashville Scene. He also produces music under the name callinamagician.

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