Don’t let the sadness and down-on-their-luck characters on Pedigo’s Magic Pilsner fool you. The new release from Dallas singer/songwriter John Pedigo, one half of folk-rock duo The O’s, also radiates plenty of hope, joy and exuberant defiance in the face of loss. Pedigo’s father was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, and Pedigo set out to make and record some songs that would, in their own way, honor and entertain his dad.
Over the course of the next year or so Pedigo’s father received treatment, seemed to be in remission, then got sick again, and ultimately succumbing to the cancer in May of 2017. So, if you, like many, thought 2017 sucked even more than 2016, John Pedigo probably has one up on you. And yet, despite the loss and despite the sadness, the debut self-titled record is about being energized to face life’s occasional misery and maybe even standing upright with a wry smile after a blow to the gut.
“A lot of it was me in a room,” says Pedigo of the writing and recording for the album. “It was a real process. I hate to use the word cathartic, but it certainly was that to a certain degree.” After stewing over the initial tracks — guitar, vocals and drums — Pedigo called in some friends to zero in on the soul of the material and the album.
The record kicks off with the sound of a siren, and a little banjo to orient fans of Pedigo’s picking from the O’s. With a full-band sound, touches of honky-tonk piano, a string section in one spot, the sizzle of a gospel organ in another, a few festive brassy blasts of dixieland horns, driving drums, and lightly saturated electric guitar lurking underneath the acoustic playing that anchors the songs, Pedigo sings about people in peculiar binds.
With Pedigo’s Magic Pilsner — which is named after an infamously bad batch of homebrew that his dad concocted in the kitchen sink one year — the scope is a little wider. Fans of the emotional and narrative heft of bands like the Hold Steady, Deer Tick and Dolorean will appreciate what Pedigo has pulled off here. Some might hear a connection to early Tom Petty, with a DNA-level kinship to the muscle and economy of classic rock but also a tender stoicism that’s sneakily rebellious. Others might detect a connection to acts like the Pogues, who can take a bone-deep bleakness and turn it into fist-pumping beer-hoisting anthems somehow.
Glide is proud to premiere “No Better Than You,” from Pedigo’s Magic Pilsner (below), a song that conjures a punk rock anguish mixed with the high energy rock and soul of Josh Ritter and Justin Townes Earle. With such an engaging band name that might make for rapid t-shirt sales, Pedigo’s is onto something adventurously musical beyond their spirited handle. Read on below for Pedigo’s take on the premiered track that takes its own hits on Trump…
“I’ve always said, never mix politics, religion, and/or philosophy with drinking. Otherwise, you’ll spend the night arguing,” says Pedigo. “However, it happens that I’m currently drinking a perfectly cold Miller Lite. So delicious, but I have to contradict myself. “No Better Than You” is the only truly politically motivated song on the album. The devastation of November 2016 is a sad piece of ongoing history, and we’re reminded daily of the reckless decision from the outdated electoral college. Unfortunately, I perpetually wake up and read the paper (and by paper I mean news articles on my phone) and get depressed. I like to think of the song as a ‘fuck you, we won’t do what you tell me’ type song. And what I find is most funny is hidden in the song’s title – No Better than You appears to mean that I’m saying “you” are the best. But what I’m really saying is that literally EVERYONE is better than you; in this case, Trump.”
“My goal was to write a fun party song that’s about politics, and I think we got it,” adds Pedigo. “Stuart Sikes, who mixed the record, called me when he loaded that one up and was overwhelmed, because it’s a kitchen sink song. There’s a ton of stuff going on in that song: Waylon-esqe disco beat, horns, party guitar, killer bass lines, a good-timin’ piano, doo-wops, and me clapping a dozen times alone in a room. It actually was pretty entertaining building that one up…Albeit, a solitary journey.”
“I hope this doesn’t come across as too abstract, but for whatever reason I always think of this song as taking place in Civil War times. Like when I imagine the story I’m singing – not sure why, but it plays better to me that way. So I suppose I was influenced by daydreaming. And politics. And still wanting to have a good time in spite of it all.”