Alice Peacock had four highly acclaimed singer-songwriter albums beginning in 2000 and extending until her last studio album, 2009’s Love Remains. Much has changed since. She’s had three children, moved to Cincinnati, and obviously gotten 10 years older. To be exact, she did make a duo studio recording, Myrick/Peacock with Danny Myrick in 2011 and a live album, Live from Space, in 2014 but she is excited to return for this studio effort, Minnesota and get back on the proverbial radar. In some ways, motherhood, a strong marriage, and the burdens of responsibility have given her a new awareness. She’s opening a new door, even addressing this directly in “Dry Spell” – “Feel the weight of the world on my shoulders/Am I wiser or am I just older?” That’s a question that most of us can ponder endlessly. Undoubtedly it changes the way one approaches songwriting too.
Many of these songs have gestated for some time, written in spurts and forcibly abandoned due to an inability to find large blocks of time but she somehow kept at it. Four of these tunes were products of the third annual Real Women Real Songs challenge – which meant writing 52 songs in 52 weeks in 2015.
She was fortunate to collaborate on some of the Minnesota songs too. “Dry Spell” was written with Wayne Kirkpatrick (who co-wrote Clapton’s Grammy song of the year “Change the World’). Isn’t That Me and You” was with Minnesotan Jon Vezner (co-writer of Kathy Mattea’s Grammy Best Country Song “Where’ve You Been”) and “Your Own Backyard” with Dirk Freymuth who has worked with John Gorka and others. Fortune struck again when she linked up with Grammy Award-winning producer/multi-instrumentalist Phil Madeira and his bandmates the Red Dirt Boys (Emmylou Harris’ band). Bassist Chris Donahue and drummer Bryan Owings are with Madeira throughout with guitarist Will Kimbrough aboard for “Your Own Backyard” and “Resting In The Quiet.”
They cut the basic tracks in Nashville in four days. Peacock says, “They’ve played together so much that they have this easy musical conversation, so the process was effortless. We didn’t do more than two takes. I didn’t even overdub any lead vocals, which was a little terrifying.” She got all the reassurance she needed from Madeira and his mates.
After the basic tracks were done Peacock fleshed it out a bit more. She, Kirkpatrick and James Hollihan played acoustic guitar on the record though John Mark Painter (another Madeira cohort) played the lion’s share of acoustic as well as adding horns, notably to “Paranoid,” which finds Peacock sounding downright sultry in a New Orleans setting with a Madeira kind of jazz grove, as she sings one of the few non-biographical songs. Derri Daugherty, lead singer and guitarist for the Choir, mixed the disc and sang harmonies with Peacock on several songs.
So, let’s get back to those songs. There’s some nostalgia, plenty of contemplation and some spirituality, as you’d expect given some of Peacock’s early gospel work. This is most vivid in the closing “God Be Near Me” – “Help me to surrender/And love the world the way you do/now and ever after/And live in love the way you do.” “Resting in the Quiet,” a fervent love song, also mentions “a glimpse of the divine” and is punctuated toward the end by Kimbrough’s guitar lines.
Peacock will talk about love for her children being different than romantic love and composed a beautiful song about parenthood love describes as so fierce it hurts in “Free and Wild.” Love for her home state is obviously captured in the title track which has some cinematic imagery relating to the Northern Lights – “Last night we watched/the electric light show/Playing wide across the sky/Sat on the front porch in sacred silence/The sparks almost made me cry.”
Peacock feels very fortunate about her family life and urges us count our blessings and appreciate the finer aspects both of human nature and nature itself, summed up well in the rocking “Your Own Backyard” – “Everybody’s looking for the real thing baby/But you don’t always have to go and look so hard/You never know when you might stumble over treasure/Try digging for gold in your own backyard.”
Peacock refreshingly plans to return to music full time, at least as full as it can be now. She’s already shared a good deal of wisdom with us here on Minnesota. We look forward to more.
- Jim Hynes