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Singer-songwriter Pegi Young has said, “I’m just trying to tell some stories and make music that I can get behind.” That conviction has never rung truer than on her latest album, Bracing For Impact (2011). Her third release, and second for Vapor Records, the 11-song disc spotlights Pegi’s beautifully spare and resonant vocals, world-weary and eloquent lyricism, and hushed yet immediate emotional landscape.
Bracing For Impact features Pegi once again accompanied by her acclaimed recording and touring band, The Survivors: legendary keyboard player Spooner Oldham on piano, bassist Rick Rosas (part of the reunited Buffalo Springfield), guitarist Kelvin Holly, and drummer Phil Jones. The album was produced by Pegi Young with The Survivors, with the exception of the final track, “Song For A Baby Girl,” produced by Elliot Mazer (who co-produced Young’s last full-length, Foul Deeds).
Eight of the album’s 11 songs are originals written by Pegi Young, with highlights including “Flatline Mama”—featuring a horn section and background vocals from The Watson Twins—“No Heart Beats Sound,” and “Trouble In A Bottle.” Neil Young wrote the rollicking “Doghouse,” and contributes background vocals and harmonica as well. Neil is also featured playing electric guitar on “Lie” and “Song For A Baby Girl,” and on harmonica for “Number 9 Train,” written by the late bluesman Tarheel Slim. On “I Don’t Want To Talk About It”—a song by Crazy Horse’s Danny Whitten that first appeared on that group’s 1971 album—Chandra Watson delivers additional vocals.
Bracing For Impact follows up 2010’s Foul Deeds, which Pegi co-produced with veteran multi-instrumentalist Ben Keith (who passed away shortly after the album’s release). In addition to her own compositions—with highlights including “Broken Vows,” “Starting Over,” “Traveling,” and the title track—Foul Deeds features Pegi’s distinctive interpretations of four songs by others: Will Jennings' “Pleasing to Me,” Lucinda Williams' “Side of the Road,” Devendra Banhart's “Body Breaks,” and B. Boatman's “Blue Sunday.” Throughout, Pegi displays an uncanny knack for cutting to the heart of thorny emotional issues and difficult truths.
Pegi first became known through her longtime role as backup singer—onstage and on record—for Neil Young, her husband of three decades. She debuted as a solo artist with a self-titled 2007 album that Allmusic.com described as “loose, relaxed, and flows from beginning to end…it's an intimate, hopeful and melancholy look at life and love from a songwriter who has been there.” Pegi Young—also co-produced by Ben Keith—features guest appearances from Neil Young (guitar), Marty Stuart (mandolin), The Jordinaires (background vocals), and a mix of personally charged originals and inspired covers, including songs by Joe Sample, Jimmy Buffet, and Will Jennings.
With Bracing For Impact, Pegi continues her progression as a singer-songwriter whose work is defined by uncommon grace, affecting warmth, and heartbreaking honesty. “I don't write happy songs, and the songs I'm attracted to tend to be kind of melancholy,” Young has observed. “I don't really know why that is, but that's just how they come to me, and I have to let 'em come on through.”