PJ Harvey: The Peel Sessions 1991-2004


With The Peel Sessions, PJ Harvey releases what is perhaps one her most personal and intimately recorded album yet, and it serves as a fitting personal tribute to BBC Radio legend John Peel.  Adding to the deeply personal feel of the album is the fact that Harvey had specifically chosen the songs which appear on this album from several recordings she had done on John Peel’s show over the past fourteen years. Certainly, Harvey’s song selection will lead to some second-guessing amongst her diehard fans, as well as tons of speculation and interpretation behind the album’s meaning as a whole, especially considering that The Peel Sessions is a tribute album.
But even with the countless questions and interpretations of the song selection and their sequential order on the album, there are several things that must be said – these songs, stripped of gloss and pretense – display Harvey’s captivating and amazing talent. And even with several different session producers, Harvey manages to maintain an insistently singular and confident artistic vision while growing artistically.

Admittedly, Harvey doesn’t have a particularly mellifluous voice but it’s sincerely soulful and the emotional range she can handle should garner much more adulation than what she’s received for it. Out of all the women artists within the last fifteen years or so, Harvey is one of the few who can easily sing as the suffering lover on “Oh My Lover,” as the defiant  woman on “Victory,” seductive on “Sheela-Na-Gig” and bluesy on “Wang Dang Doodle."   The spare accompaniment on each of these recordings allows Havey and her band to stretch their musical muscles while playing in a controlled way, where there’s an underlying sense of awe and discovery.

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