By Ramsey Poston

Peyote Pilgrim performs onstage; Courtesy of Ramsey Poston

The Sounds of Southwest led me to Pearl Street Warehouse last month to watch local Americana band, Peyote Pilgrim, perform its songs of hope, joy and love. 

The band is led by lead vocalist, Casey Shannon, who also plays guitar. He assembled the four piece band in 2012 with some old school friends. So far, the band has put out three albums/EPs and is prepared to begin working on a fourth.  

Peyote resonates as classic Americana but it’s not afraid to bend the sound genre of superficial labels and experiment with a pop song here and there. For Shannon, the only real requirement is “authenticity,” which he emphasized to me before the show.

Shannon, the primary lyricist for the quartet, grew up in Alexandria, VA, and says that when he was ten years old, an Aunt gave him a copy of Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” which made an appreciable impression on young song writer. Wilco’s style of lyrics and rhythm are present throughout the Pilgrim catalog, and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy is an inspiration, but the sounds of Connor Obertist, Lucinda Williams, and Townes Van Zandt also reverberate through the band’s musical style. 

Shannon’s lyrics tell the stories of life and are accented by the subtle but unavoidable metallic whine of the pedal steel guitar, adeptly played by Ian Dansey. Dansey, originally from the Tidewater area, uses the steel pedal to fill holes in some songs and in others bring a haunting melodic drone, as in “Liberty Blues.” 

Peyote Pilgrim is a band that is in-sync, and award-winning drummer, Jack Kilby, and bassist, Davey Hoen, maintain that synchronization, as well as the rhythm and beat.

Kilby is from Alexandria, VA, and a 2019 Wammie Award winner for Best Jazz Album. He also runs a recording studio, Crab Shack Music, at his home in Alexandria.

Hoen was born in DC and grew up in Alexandria. He follows in the steps of his father, who also played bass. A few years ago he ran into his old buddy Shannon at the Union Street Pub where Shannon recruited Hoen’s talents for Peyote Pilgrim.  

The Jan. 9 show at Pearl Street Warehouse included special guest Micah Robinson on keyboards. Robinson, born and raised in DC and a graduate of Howard University, continues to also build up his career as a solo artist.  

Peyote Pilgrim intends to keep creating new music and expanding beyond the DMV. Catch them now so you can say you saw them before they got big! 

Ramsey Poston is a live music lover who lives at the Wharf Gangplank Marina and he is the founder and managing editor of Wharf Life DC.

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