The McPeak Brothers, out of Wytheville, VA, had a significant impact on bluegrass music during their run from the early 1960s right through to the 1990s, mainly due to their fine vocal arrangements and distinct songwriting. Along the way, they recorded for Rebel Records, County Records and RCA/Nashville. They were also featured on country singer Mel Tillis’s nationally syndicated TV show. Today, the McPeak Brothers are best remembered for popular numbers like “Somebody Socked It to Mine,” “Bobbi” and “Simon Crutchfield’s Grave,” which have occasionally made it into the playlists of newer bands.
Larry was the principal songwriter among the McPeak siblings. In the late 1990s, he also co-founded the Bristol-based VW Boys. He died in 2014 after a long period of illness. Though Larry is gone, his friends and family have made sure that he is not been forgotten. The six musicians on this project—Johnny Williams (guitar and vocals); Jeanette Williams (bass vocals); Larry’s brother and McPeak Brothers alumnus Mike McPeak (rhythm guitar and vocals); Mike’s son Adam McPeak (mandolin); Nikki Wright (fiddle and vocals) and Steve Chrisley (banjo) have seen to that. Their debut album is a spirited and delightfully rustic collection of ten of Larry’s original songs.
As these songs demonstrate, Larry had the gift. His elegiac and lyrically poignant originals explore themes of both darkness and the light. On the brighter side there’s the powerful, born-again celebration of “Old Broken Tree” and the plaintive gospel ode, “What A Wonderful Time.” On the bleaker extreme, there’s the tragic and bloody Civil War Ballad, “Dry Run Creek,” the remorseful, soul-searching “Humble Man” and “Chilly Wind,” a melancholic reverie on the coming of winter. “Yesteryear” is a particularly insightful song about how our precious childhood memories become sweeter and ever-more comforting as we grow older.
These five gifted musicians have an uplifting old-timey gospel vibe that does graceful justice to these timeless compositions while giving them a well-deserved new life.