Album Review: Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants – Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants

When you spend so much time making music for everyone else, it must be nice to do it for yourself. Not to say you don’t enjoy every hit; I could just imagine you’d have to let off some creative steam, maybe try something new every once and a while.

Chris Shiflett and The Dead Peasants is that personal need to explore for Chris Shiflett, a guy most known predominantly as the guitarist for the Foo Fighters. Given his history, Shiflett has a credible amount of song writing chops thanks to all the bands and projects he’s built a career on. From Me First and the Gimme Gimmes through Jackson United and so on, each band has been a new challenge for Shiflett. This time, he’s found himself seeing what happens when you take away the distortion and leave a simpler sound that can still take over an arena.

I’ll call it a personal record, but it’s not meant to be such in an emotional, letting-out-the-demons kind of way. It’s more of his own tribute to the style of music that shaped him into who he is today. A humble record, it tests him by making music beyond his comfort zone while remaining personally familiar. Shiflett grew up on a healthy diet of old school country and 50’s rockabilly: Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Gene Vincent, and Elvis. You hear it on “Burning Lights” and closer “Death March” when the lead is taken by a peddle-steel. The use of an organ and lap steel guitar make up the most drastic departure in sound for Shiflett, but he can pull off the excess twang with his every day voice and reliable alt-rock habits.

He enlisted a diverse cast of studio musicians to help out, a veritable who’s who of the modern alt-folk/country world with a core three members of the band, John Lousteau on drums, and Derek Silverman making sure he’d get this right. As a result, the pace of the record is a constant chug. The nineties alt country that fits him so much better takes over the style of the record with “Not Going Down Alone” carrying a big Springsteen aesthetic. The excellent breakdown on “Baby Let it Out” with strong guitar leads throughout make for the best tracks on the record. The organ ads that intimate bar feel to the whole thing, and by the last minute or so you’re hearing Foo Fighters circa 2003. Song like this make it easy to make comparisons between the two, but that’s only because of what he brought to the table when he joined the band.

Shiflett has never been much of a show-off, doing his job to pump out power. He’s spent the past decade mainly as someone else’s guitarist, but after hearing Dead Peasants, you can guess he’s possibly had more to do with the changing Foo sound than once thought. Big, chunky acoustic chords rock their hardest, just the way Shiflett likes them. Every detail is worked out, making it about the song as a whole and keeping the focus off him, even though he’s the guy whose name is on the record. Shiflett’s never written such a straight-forward country blues sound before, and because of that, you get songs that feel safe and very comfortable as with album opener “Helsinki”. The guitars are left to do what they’ve always done and provide anthems for the rest of the band to rock with.

As a solo record, Dead Peasants is not meant to be anything emotional or eye opening, only a genuine experience for long time fans to enjoy. Energetic and enthusiastic, you can hear his playful excitement that can only come from creating exactly what he wants. There are many sides to Shiflett musically, and it’s obvious he refuses to keep any of them hidden. Like rare issues to comic book nerds, Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants will be for his own following, something to chime in with the next time Foo Fighters are brought up. You can’t call it a personal best because it’s goal wasn’t to be that, only a quick departure from the everyday, and that’s something we can all relate to.


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