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Music Review: Peasant – On the Ground

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In pre-industrial societies around the world, peasants made up the majority of the people. They were a class of people that, while above artisans in Mediterranean class systems, generally toiled and worked fields for next to nothing. Peasants worked to generate wealth for the ruling class, by and large, and suffered under the notion of being virtually expendable as individuals.

Yet as a whole, societies could not last without the peasant class. Peasants formed social networks of their own, supporting one another and protecting each other from the harms of the climates in which they worked as well as external threats. Sooner or later, in most societies, the peasants would revolt after years of hard treatment and nothing to show for it.

Peasants would endure by creating stories and songs out of the dust of their everyday experiences. Finding comfort in bleak environments became a survival mechanism and provided the framework on which many peasants mounted their revolt against the ruling class. Without such small comforts of song and storytelling from troubadours and the like, many peasants would lack the courage to take on bigger tasks.

Damien DeRose, from Doylestown, PA, arrives with the humility of one of the working class. Performing under the name of Peasant, DeRose seems to exemplify the simplicity of musical creation in light of dark times. With an ostensibly perfect set of circumstances to fuel the flames of his own artistic revolt, Peasant is the ideal songwriter to resemble the struggle.

Like Elliot Smith, Peasant is a troubadour with stories in his travel bag. Head down as though years of struggle and strife have placed him under the earth, his ability to silence a crowd with a simple acoustic guitar is never in doubt and his shyness serves as a powerful asset in his own personal rebellion against the ruling class.

With On the Ground, Peasant has collected a series of stories and songs that would bolster any dejected listener and grant assurance to any weary proletarian. Able to construct valiant textures with uncomplicated production and delicate lyrics, Peasant’s latest record on Paper Garden Records is a more than fitting follow-up to Fear Not, Distant Lover.

As discussed, societies could not last without the peasant class. In the case of DeRose, his examination of the world around him and interactions within the social classes make him an essential part of our world. His storytelling ability is akin to Simon and Garfunkel, drawing on personal experiences to weave tales of existence from his perspective.

Peasant’s soft intonations bring the lyrical beauty of songs like “Fine Is Fine” to epic levels, allowing the minimalistic sound to course its way through winding rivers of gentleness and nuance. His free approach to song-writing is palpable on tracks like the stunningly lush “The Wind” and the somewhat risky “Birds,” both of which expose a more audacious side.

When it comes to balladry, Peasant delivers songs with splendour and texture that are hard to match in current music. The maddeningly elegant “Raise Today” is highlighted by soft vocals and affectionate acoustic plucking.

Peasant does his best Paul Simon impression on “Impeccable Manners,” a remarkable song in which he tests his vocal range and plucks charmingly on his guitar. Other songs work the same angle faultlessly, using folk music and moving lyrics to offer simple songs from the heart. The album’s title track is another fine example of Peasant’s ability to tell wonderful stories on a folk backdrop worthy of the best in the business.

In a day and age when many artists suffer and toil for the ruling class, Peasant is able to tell stories of his time and offer calm in gloomy surroundings of darkening skies. For many, his music will mend old wounds and offer comfort for new days. He is an extraordinary talent worthy of leading the rebellion and On the Ground is a nice way to get acquainted with this gifted artist.

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About Jordan Richardson