Monday, August 30, 2010

Intimate and Satisfying Deeds: Pegi Young's Foul Deeds

Pegi Young’s Foul Deeds is a very satisfying album. (Pegi Young's music career has traditionally been seen in the shadow of her famous husband Neil. Yet she has written her own songs and released a few albums featuring members of Neil's band.) But it’s sad to learn that Ben Keith, the long-time pedal steel guitarist who died July 26, 2010, has turned up on Foul Deeds as his last recorded statement. After a good career in Nashville as sideman and studio musician to such greats as Patsy Cline and Faron Young, Keith was hired to play on Harvest (1972), one of the most beloved albums in Neil Young's catalogue. Listening is the most important element to good musicians and Keith's ears were second to none. His work on Foul Deeds is exceptional in giving the record a sound and musical quality that's "in the pocket." Keith's style and tone supports the singer and the song while fueling the tempo. "Side of the Road," featuring Neil Young on harmonica, makes the case.

One of the best tracks on the album for its irony and sensuality is "Who Knew" particularly due to Keith's equally supportive dobro playing. In fact, this whole album is very intimate. Young's vocals, though limited in range, sound personal and private and on the confessional side: “Foul Deeds” or “Blue Sunday” make the case. That kind of intimacy is really hard to do in music, but Young succeeds because she sounds like she’s singing only to you. This strategy may not be useful in finding commercial radio airplay, but it certainly draws you in. Besides, as I get older, that's the kind of music that I really appreciate and enjoy.

Foul Deeds also includes a DVD directed by Jonathan Demme, featuring Ben Keith, called, Love like Water. It's Pegi Young in performance at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia and it’s included in the first 5,000 copies of the album.

-- John Corcelli is a musician, actor, writer and theatre director

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