Nick Peck | The Last Train to Desolation Pass Review
by Jeff Becker
Nick Peck is a multi-instrumentalist and composer who uses the textualization of jazz to highlight thought-provoking compositions that offer the listener a storytelling experience. COVID has forever changed our world. Its isolation has renewed our faith that music is still the ultimate healer even in the toughest of times. Peck recorded this album during the height of lockdown. He played all the parts except a few guest overdubs. He endowed the recording with the only instruments he had access to during the lockdown. The recording is titled The Last Train to Desolation Pass, but the music contained within this 5-part recording is nothing short of inspired.
“Prelude to Cascadia” begins the journey. Its exotic fingerstyle with harmonics envisions the train gearing up its engine for the trip. Like the morning dew glistening on all its shiny parts, the train gears up to depart the station. “Part 1 Departure” embarks on the ever-growing landscape as the morning sun shines down upon the tracks evoking every beautiful note from Peck’s guitar. His use of colorizations is impeccable as he traverses the landscape of possibilities keeping a sunny and relaxed feel as the train gains its speed. Peck eloquently employs the keyboard to significant dramatic effect. The train gains speed and intensity and then releases, eluding peaks and valleys within the train’s journey. “Part 2 Desolation Pass to Hell’s Peak” begins with a soft opening and quickly devolves into an eerie juxtaposition of intensity living up to its title. You could easily find this track on Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” Its spooky aesthetic is compelling and riveting, and it grows in its intensity adding in the rockish electric guitar.
“Part 3 Remembrance Canyon Park” is a pensive and introspective listen. Again, flutist Ben Lockwood joins as a guest artist. The beauty within his playlist highlights an ethereal emotive within the composition. The tune has, at times, a classical overtone that adds to its depth of meaning. “Part 4 Race to the Sea” s the final track, which is sub-titled (End of the Line). It ties up the recording with an uplifting and moving piece that sees the train coming into the station with an anticipating melody. Once again, Lockwood joins Peck in creating a celebratory landing spot for the album. The track sees a full spectrum of pushing to the final destination, almost like the runner crossing the finish line to a celebratory victory song.
Peck has created an entire journey; his ideas and creative spirit are on full display on The Last Train to Desolation Pass. It is not often you can hear such a thought-provoking album with so much risk-taking. Peck goes beyond the confines and creates a cinematic listen that will leave a lasting impression, one I hope to visit often. His multi-faceted talents are of the highest regard. British Columbia is all the better to have him in their creative fabric of composers.