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“These songs are inspired by the grit, gumption, and faith of my grandparents over several generation.” The inside cover of Charlie Peacock’s latest release, No Man’s Land, makes obvious the theme of his twelve tracks of country-blues songs. He looks to the stories of his ancestors to fuel his music, covering the album case with collage-style photos of his great-grandparents and an image of a dilapidated Louisiana cabin. Though Peacock is famous for helping produced iconic songs such as Amy Grant’s “Every Heartbeat” (1991) and Switchfoot’s “Dare You to Move” (2003), No Man’s Land, which was released in early October, will transport you to a different world, somewhere in the countryside of old-time Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma.
“Mystic” is the first single and second track off the album, and it encapsulates Peacock’s love for Americana and travel. It opens with a single electric guitar blues riff, which reverbs and crescendos into a peaceful and optimistic tale of the American dream through a musician’s eyes. The line “this is my story, my story is my glory – my shame, my comfort, my hurt” speaks to Peacock’s desire to narrate his legacy through imagery of old southern folklore. The song includes an upbeat instrumental interlude that is pure joy and celebration.
Peacock has spoken about the importance of his family and his memories of them as the primary influence of the record. In an interview with Country Music Television in October, he stated: “For me, it was all about remembering my grandparents and grandparents’ speaking voices. The sound of their voices and their look, too, was my compass. Plus, I have an old tintype of my great-grandfather from Louisiana holding his fiddle. I looked at that photo a lot, and it kept me inspired and on course.”
Despite the heavy Southern influence on No Man’s Land, there are some significant groove elements present as well. The seventh track “Beauty Left the Room,” features jazzy horns and soulful guitar lines. Peacock’s usually soft and warm voice is a bit quieter and harmonizes with a female voice as well. The tenth track, “Ghost of The Kitty Cat,” sounds heavily influenced by early jazz as well. It’s catchy fiddle and accordion may not be instruments one associates with a dance party, but there is no way anyone who listens to this song will be able to keep still.
Of course, a songwriter as talented as Peacock can write a slow song that keeps a listener’s attention just as well as the faster-paced songs. “Only You Can” is a ballad in which Peacock reflects on the many ups and downs of a well-lived life and the importance of individual strength. Though the song, as well as the entire album, is very personal to Peacock, it is relatable to any listener who values family and individual journey. That’s what makes Peacock so special, and likely what makes his music such a success as well. His writing appeals to those who have never even been to the South or may not be as knowledgeable in American folklore. He explains to Country Music Television, “I love the beauty and power of a well-placed word. I love a great lyric like I love a great conversation — always looking for some beautiful combination of intellect and soul.” Peacock is truly a universal storyteller.