There is no sound quite so unearthly as slide guitar, that wavery, shimmery between-the-notes tone elicited by moving an edge of something—bone, bottleneck, metal or store-bought slide—down the neck of a guitar. Peg Simone, out of Brooklyn, employs the slide to bone-chilling effect here, fracturing raucous rock choruses and sepia-toned ballads into ghost images with its off-tuned eeriness. Her music is poised somewhere between Muddy Waters and Pere Ubu (Tony Maimone recorded this album at Studio G), pure blues tones stuttering across hectic post-punk rhythms, free-thinking modern lyrics bent around the age-old quandaries of love and violence.
Simone uses both instruments—her breathy, rock-centered voice and slide guitar—in a variety of ways during the course of the album. “I Don’t Want to Meet You” haunts its echoing space with shivering slides and gem-like harmonics, while blues-traditional “I’m Calling” is sludgier and more grounded. “Spellbound” begins in a whisper and only explodes into rubber-band slides at the interstices. Yet regardless of whether songs are slow or fast, hard or soft, there’s an undercurrent of threat. “Hey little girl / don’t stick your head in the oven / there’s a rainbow coming / the wind will cool things down,” cautions Simone in opener, “The Sun Is Leaking”, introducing the idea of suicide and betrayal right up front and in her most rocking track. Later, in “Treasure”, she dreams of mutilation at the hand of a lover… and seems not to mind the idea very much. Much is modern about Simone’s take on rock and blues, not least the fact that it’s a woman playing those exquisite slides. But themes like love and hurt are ageless, and maybe built into the DNA of blues guitar.
// Notes from the Road
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