Fenceposts (1999-2000)

Seven hundred miles away, two young lions were searching for the Promised Land in Nashville, Tennessee. This happy duo included Justin Cook, vocals and keys, and Jerry Jewell, vocals and guitars; they were variously known as Grass and Anon, The Minuets, and Grandest Day. With their own inspirational sources—from Sam and Dave to Hank Williams—they would come to add tremendous resource to The Peach Truck's approach to music and songwriting.

Cook and Dismuke, being first cousins, had long shared a love of music together. High school friends in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Cook and Jewell were involved with one another in both choir and theater. Likewise, it was together that Cook and Jewell decided to leave college and family in pursuit of their musical dreams. From the hills of Arkansas to Colorado's Roaring Fork Valley, they tried their hand at an original mixture of pop and folk music for nearly three years.

Cook, in hopes of booking future shows with the Peach Truck, shared a demo with Dismuke during the family's Thanksgiving holiday in the fall of '97. A year later, Dismuke found himself and his band staring out on a new horizon. He wanted a piano player, and he needed a bass player and to come with him. An invitation to join the band in the recording of its next record was extended during the Christmas of '98. By March of '99, The Peach Truck had two new members. The weight and effect of their presence became an immeasurable factor in the band's further development.

Given time, distance, and chemistry, Brightwell's role in the band took on a new direction. The focus of his involvement and interest in music had begun to shift towards the realms of business and support, and, late in the summer of '99, an agreement was reached that required Brightwell to step down as the band's primary drummer. Brightwell continued to serve as one of three different session drummers who worked with the band during its mapping of the new album. There were no real prospects for his replacement at the time.

The lack of a permanent member in the drum slot eventually took its toll on momentum, and flagging spirits affected the band's general opinion. The notion of continuing to work on the album with part-time musicians was losing its appeal, and in light of the project's encompassment, the option, it was decided, had become less than feasible. The band needed to proceed beyond an interim line up. Late in the fall, amidst a growing sense of gloom, The Peach Truck's recording engineer, Jay "Jaimo" Jones, suggested yet another family member, his brother, a drummer by the name of Evan Jones. He was taken in as the band's newest member without so much as a song. Everything seemed right for everyone, and, to be frank, the removal of desperation superseded the need for an audition.

Jones was best known for his recreational performances with The Dead-Parrot Society (Grateful Dead, Jimmy Buffett), a short-lived cover band from Denton, TX.  Though lacking professional experience, Jones frequently sat in with informal percussion ensembles and local live music acts, including, on more than one occasion, The Peach Truck Republic. Accepting the role of drummer, Jones was challenged to experiment with and apply an ever-widening variety of rhythms. Existing members accommodated, scoffolded and supported the new drummer in every way they possibly could, and so it is truly to the credit of each that the bands' overall lineup was made complete. As independents, in groups, as sidemen, leaders, session players, and recording artists, The Peach Truck Republic came to possess more than its fair share of experienced musicians; it was a second marriage for everyone.

A hybrid sound grew from a combination of the circumstances and personalities involved in the reformation of the band. Oddly enough, the inherent eclecticism congealed to collective and became characterized by a far more singular musical approach than the band had known before. There was a new formula in the making, organic, often times immediate—layered rhythms, harmonized guitars, and multi-part vocal harmonies. Categorization can be difficult; influential enumeration, however, is easy enough: Delta and British Blues, Southern Rock, Soul, Gospel, Jazz, Folk, Country and Bluegrass music. 

The Peach Truck's second album, Fenceposts, was to be a test for the limits of this classic repertoire. Thirty-seven songs from start to end, the album is a triple-length concept piece based on Oliver Reed's poem Like Fenceposts Down the Row. A colossal undertaking, the creation of the album amounted to the members' life work, and its production, often times, seemed unending. Every penciled on matchbook, sketch, chart, skeleton and closet from a hundred years of collective experience went into the album's cauldron. There were moments of uncertainty and question, conflict and indecision, but the music came out shining in the end. 

Recorded both at home and in the studio, Fenceposts projects an overall mood that has everyone exceptional—the individual, the collective. Within a year of its release the band was receiving national acclaim. And the critics concurred: these five musicians had reached an obvious agreement about the music, how it was to be approached and how it was to be presented. They set a remarkably high bar for themselves, and then they jumped beyond it. Representing the new quintet's very first record, Fenceposts opened up their eyes to even wider possibilities.

 

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