Pegi Young is somewhat known as Neil Young's occasional backup singer and as co-founder of the Bridge School for children with speech and other learning disabilities. Mainly though, she is known as Mrs. Neil Young.
As the spouse of a rock legend, the temptation to immediately dismiss Mrs. Neil Young as a credible artist in her own right (see Yoko Ono or Linda McCartney for reference) is an understandably strong one. But in Pegi Young's case, such a premature rush to judgment would not only be unfair — it would also be dead wrong.
On Foul Deeds — her second solo album and her first for Vapor Records, the indie label started by Neil Young and manager Elliot Roberts — Pegi Young convincingly casts aside any such doubts. The fact is, Pegi shows herself to be coming into her own as both a singer and songwriter quite nicely here.
Of course, it doesn't hurt to have great musicians like bassist Rick Rosas, guitarist Anthony Crawford, and the late, great multi-instrumentalist Ben Keith in the band. All of these names are familiar to anyone who has ever listened to Neil Young albums like Harvest Moon and Prairie Wind. Guys like keyboardist Spooner Oldham and even Neil himself turn up here as well.
But as the saying goes, you can have the greatest band in the world, and it still won't mean a thing without great songs to match. Fortunately, the songs on Foul Deeds — divided equally between Pegi's originals, and a handful of well chosen covers by people like Will Jennings, Lucinda Williams, and Devendra Banhart — are all pretty damn great.
Taken together, these songs also tell a story that flows like water from the first track to the last. Will Jennings' "Pleasing To Me" sets the table nicely, describing an idyllic relationship with lyrics like "I watch the sunshine tangled up in your hair, and it's pleasing to me." Pegi's smoothly pleasing voice, backed by Ben Keith (on Hammond B3 organ and pedal steel) and Crawford (on electric guitar), is also so convincing, that for a minute you'd be forgiven for thinking she actually wrote the song (she didn't) about Shakey himself.