Jefferson Pepper

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Jefferson Pepper (born Jeffrey T. Lebo, on February 25, 1962) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, recording artist and social/environmental activist. He lives in the small town of York Haven, Pennsylvania, outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, United States.[1]

Pepper's music is a mix of Americana, roots-rock, folk, punk rock, bluegrass and alternative country (alt country). He is known for his use of narrative in songs about working-class Americans, social issues and for his political protest songs. His songs and musical style have been compared to the work of other artists such as Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, John Prine, Steve Earle and Billy Bragg.

Origins and musical beginnings[edit]

Pepper grew up in a rural subdivision in Fairview Township, outside the small town of New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. His grandfathers (Lebo and Bender) were coal miners and farmers in Tower City, PA and his father, Fred Lebo, was a production mechanic for the American Can Company in Lemoyne, PA. His family attended West Shore Baptist Church in Camp Hill, PA, where his mother, Dottie Lebo, sang in the choir. Pepper began guitar lessons at the age of twelve. By high school, he had developed an interest in painting. He went on to earn a degree in Fine Art from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, also spending a semester abroad at Crewe-Alsager College in Cheshire, England. During and after college he was involved with several garage bands which mostly played covers by artists such as The Clash, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, The Smiths, U2, Tom Petty, The Grateful Dead and Creedence Clearwater Revival. His first original band, Strain (with Pepper as principal songwriter, vocalist and bassist, Duke Jeremiah on drums and John Fritchey on guitar), recorded a six-song demo, Shame, which was not released.[2]

Christmas in Fallujah[edit]

Pepper's debut solo album, Christmas in Fallujah, was released in October, 2005 on American Fallout Records. The title track was inspired by Pepper's 21-year-old neighbor, David Maples, who was a medic in the US Army stationed in Iraq. Pepper is reported to have taken out a second mortgage on his house to finance the recording, which was completed at Stress Free Studios in Harrisburg, PA with Marshall Deasy at the controls. The songs on Christmas in Fallujah include: Christmas in Fallujah, M-16, Bethlehem PA, Interstate Highway, Stranded, Back To 1999, Christmas Tree, Deceived, Soldier's Joy (traditional), Why?, Armageddon For Sale, This Land is Your Land (by Woody Guthrie), and two hidden tracks, Little Boy Falling and Plastic Illuminated Snowman.[3]

Musicians and special guests on Christmas in Fallujah included: Scott Fisher (Varmints in Heaven, J.C. Fisher) on drums, Joe Allison on fiddle and mandolin, Chris Planas (The Pagan Babies, Third Degree) on lap steel and electric guitar, Mike Argento and John Fritchey on electric guitar, Pat Bowman (Quagmire Swimteam) on keyboards, John Farmer (Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, Del McCoury) on dobro, Doctor Mo (Blind Joe Death) on bass and Ray Eicher on pedal steel. Jefferson Pepper provided all vocals and played acoustic and electric guitars, bass, mandolin and percussion.

Christmas in Fallujah garnered many positive reviews and was widely played on American and European noncommercial and college radio, reaching No. 23 on the Freeform American Roots Chart in November, 2005, No. 13 on the Euro Americana Chart in December, 2005 and No. 1 on the Roots Music Report Folk Radio Chart in January, 2006.[4]

Two songs from the album, Christmas in Fallujah and M-16, were selected for inclusion on Neil Young's website Living With War.[5]

Christmas in Fallujah was also selected as Best Album of the Decade (2000–2010) by music critic Malcolm Carter of Pennyblack Music (UK).[6]

American Evolution[edit]

Pepper spent the winters of 2006 and 2007 holed up in his cedar-sided home studio in the Conewago Mountains of southern Pennsylvania, sometimes going for weeks at a time without leaving the house. Disillusioned with the social, religious and political climate of the U.S., he became obsessed with the question "What has happened to my country?" He was inspired in part by Howard Zinn's landmark book A People's History of the United States and by the Dover Intelligent Design Trial (Kitzmiller vs. Dover School Board) which played out in his backyard of Dover, PA. The result was American Evolution, a 50-song, 3-CD series which traces the evolution of culture, society and music, as well as the evolution of the individual in America. Spanning over 500 years of history, Pepper tells the story of America as seen through the eyes of working people, as opposed to politicians and moneyed elites. The project was recorded at his home studio, The House of Beer Cans, at Stress Free Studios in Harrisburg, PA (by Marshall Deasy) and at Studio X, Smash Recording and Bull Creek Productions in Nashville, TN (by Tim Lorsch).

Musicians and special guests on American Evolution include: Scott Fisher (Varmints in Heaven), Marshall Deasy (Quagmire Swimteam) and Bryan Owings (Shelby Lynne, Buddy Miller, Delbert McClinton, Justin Townes Earle, Patty Griffin, Solomon Burke, Burrito Deluxe) on drums, Joe Allison on fiddle and mandolin, Mike Argento (Varmints in Heaven), Chris Planas (The Pagan Babies, Third Degree), Jon Shain, Scott Neubert (Hal Ketchum, Trace Adkins), Tom Manche and Kenny Geist (Case 150) on guitars, Tim May (Patty Loveless, Charlie Daniels, John Cowan) on mandolin, dobro and banjo, Ray Eicher on pedal steel, Tim Lorsch (Kris Kristofferson, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, Sam Baker, Kenny Chesney, Mary Gauthier, Rodney Crowell) on fiddle, baritone violin, cello and violin, Fats Kaplin (Pure Prairie League, Kane Welch Kaplin, Kristi Rose, Hayes Carll, Nanci Griffith, Jason Ringenberg, The Waybacks, Jorma Kaukonen) on pedal steel and accordion, Deon Estus (Sting, Tina Turner), Thom Bissey (Case 150), Dave Francis (Tom Paxton, Pam Tillis, Maura O'Connell) and Rod Goelz on bass, Gene Rabbai (Willie Nelson, Neil Young) on keyboards, Randy Stewart on banjo, Bill Nork (Robert Bobby) on dobro and Bill Newton on harmonica. Jefferson Pepper played acoustic and electric guitars, bass, mandolin, harmonica, keyboards and percussion.[7]

American Evolution Volumes 1 and 2 were released in 2008. American Evolution Volume 1 (The Red Album), reached No. 9 on the Euro Americana Chart in February 2008 and American Evolution Volume 2 (The White Album), reached No. 11 on the Euro Americana Chart in June 2008. Volume 3 (The Blue Album), has not yet been released.[8]

American Evolution was released to much critical acclaim. A few notable quotes include:

"Amazingly well-crafted..." The Belfast Telegraph (Northern Ireland)

"An impressive and thoughtful project..." Mike Davies, NetRhythms (UK)

"Jefferson's writing is excellent, thought-provoking and original...All considered, lyrically this could easily be one of the strongest CDs to be released [this year]." Cashbox Magazine (USA)

"10 out of 10." Tim Peacock, Whisperin and Hollerin (Ireland)

"One of the better lyricists of our present time." Eduardo Izquierdo, Sonicwave (Spain)

"As music projects go, Jefferson Pepper's latest set of releases is a magnificent achievement in concentrated yet voluminous output...If there is a record which will stand the test of time and encapsulate the uneasiness with which Americans live with their politics and religion, this should be it." Soundfires (UK)[9]


In January 2010, Pepper launched, an interactive, educational website dealing with solutions for sustainable human societies. Topics such as global warming, peak oil, renewable energy, population control and environmental issues are discussed.[10]

Pepper is married[11] to former York Daily Record reporter Lauri Lebo (author of The Devil in Dover), who blogs about independent music releases at the American Fallout label.



1. Christmas In Fallujah / 2. M-16 / 3. Bethlehem, PA / 4. Interstate Highway / 5. Stranded / 6. Back To 1999 / 7. Christmas Tree / 8. Deceived / 9. Soldier's Joy (Traditional) / 10. Why? / 11. Armageddon For Sale / 12. This Land Is Your Land (Woody Guthrie) / 13. Little Boy Falling (Hidden Track) / 14. Plastic Illuminated Snowman (Hidden Track) [2]


1. Can't Go Home / 2. Columbus Day / 3. The Sheep And The Goats / 4. Lewis And Clark Homecoming / 5. Trail Of Tears / 6. Can't Come Back / 7. Appomattox / 8. Rockefellers / 9. Only Survivor / 10. Riverbank Blues / 11. Dam In The River Of Life / 12. Fine Fine Day / 13. I Don't Wanna Be Alone / 14. Stranger In The Glass / 15. Paperback Romance / 16. Wood And Wire / 17. Primates Swingin' [9]


1. On And On / 2. Civilized Savior/ 3. Real Good Time / 4. Disposable Me, Disposable You / 5. Collection Of Angels / 6. Break The Chain / 7. Good Morning Mrs. Stine / 8. Ben / 9. Land That I Love/ 10. The Ballad Of Betty Wulfrum / 11. Doin' It Right / 12. Crucify / 13. One Percent / 14. The Cryin' Land / 15. Coming Down / 16. Orphans Of Endorphins / 17. Another White Line [7]


1. Open Up The Window (And Let Reality In) / 2. Broken Lullabies / 3. Daddy Needs A Little Help / 4. The Corporate Machine / 5. Preaching To The Choir / 6. 21 In The 21st Century / 7. Disney World View / 8. Freedom Ain't Free / 9. Bedford Village / 10. Government Things / 11. Famous For Being Famous / 12. Plasticville / 13. Dear Katrina/ 14. Dover Darlin' / 15. Noel / 16. Ten Mile Chunk Of Cosmic Garbage / 17. Talking 911 Terrorist Blues (Hidden Track) [7]


  1. ^ Jefferson Pepper
  2. ^ a b "Jefferson Pepper". Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  3. ^ Jefferson Pepper; Christmas In Fallujah
  4. ^ [1] Archived January 14, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "Living With War Today". Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  6. ^ "Writers and Photographers : Albums of the Decade". Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  7. ^ a b c "Jefferson Pepper's American Evolution". 2010-03-16. Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  8. ^ "American Fallout Records...Real Music for Real People". Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  9. ^ a b "Jefferson Pepper's American Evolution". 2010-03-16. Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  10. ^ "HOME". Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  11. ^ Blogger:User Profile:Lauri Lebo

External links[edit]