Andy Peake – Mood Swings
Big Little Records – 2021
11 tracks; 50 minutes
Andy Peake is a veteran of the Nashville scene, having moved there in the late 80’s. He has recorded and toured with names like Delbert McClinton and Lee Roy Parnell but this is his debut under his own name. Andy used the Covid pandemic to pull in some favours from a wide range of musicians, many recording their contributions remotely, and produced and engineered the sessions himself, as well as writing seven songs himself; there are two songs from friends on the Nashville scene and two very well-known covers. The long list of musicians includes guitarists John Prestia, James Pennebaker, Will McFarlane, Chris Leuzinger, Andy Reiss and Sam Broussard; keyboards are supplied by Al Hill, Kevin McKendree and Phillip Wolfe; bass duties are divided between Paul Ossola, Bob Marinelli, John Marcus and Bryan Grassmeyer. In addition horns appear on two tracks (Scott Ducaj on trumpet, Michael ‘Miqui’ Gutierrez on tenor sax) and John Cowan adds vocals to one cut. Andy plays drums and percussion and supplies all lead and backing vocals.
The music here covers a fair range, including blues, country, jazz and latin influences. Opener “Make Peace With The Blues” is a co-write with Will McFarlane, a slow tune with echoey guitar and piano behind Andy’s semi-spoken vocal as he describes how the blues may turn up at any time, so you can’t let it keep you down; John and James exchange some nice guitar figures on a track which definitely grows on you. The witty “Hip Replacement” has gently swaying latin rhythms well supported by Sam Broussard’s guitar and the horns, one great example of Andy’s sense of humour appears in “She said, now baby you’re way out of style; you ain’t from Egypt but you swim in denial”. The title track takes us into jazz territory with swinging double bass before the first tune from a different writer, a great title from Randy Handley and Richard Fleming – “If The Blues Was Green”. This is a fun song, enhanced by James Pennebaker’s guitar and Kevin McKendree’s rocking piano: “If the blues was green and trouble was money I’d be the baddest cat in the whole wide blue world, honey. And I’d have you to thank, you can take that to the bank, I’d be the richest man you’d ever seen, if the blues was green”. “Do It While You Can” was written by Andy, Kenne Cramer, Rick Huckaby and Mark T Jordan and features Andy’s skills on percussion, the tune having something of a Little Feat feel to these ears, particularly in the rousing chorus, as well as quoting James Brown mid-tune – a definite winner!
Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” has been covered many times and it is hard to find something new to say on the song, but this extended reading is pretty good, especially the fine accompaniment provided by the band. Perhaps recognising that his own voice is not ideally suited to the gospel feel of the song, Andy uses John Cowan’s vocal in counterpoint to his own on the familiar chorus, plus one of the guitarists (three are credited on the tune) pulls out a great solo. Andy then tells us that his fear of haunted houses has disappeared because “My Baby’s Got A Light On”, a fine, uptempo tune making good use of the horns. Another Nashville songwriter, Dave Duncan teamed up with publicist Karen Leipziger to pen “Another Day, Another Teardrop”, a more serious song with a big production sound and a super guitar solo from James Pennebaker. “Untangle The Line” is a second collaboration with Mark T Jordan, a lilting rhythm taking us to the Caribbean as Andy sings of relaxing times fishing.
The final two tracks did not really appeal to this reviewer. “Bitter Pill” is about the harsh reality of losing a love, a low-key song with something of a European feel (think French chanson) to the music, then Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode” is given a zydeco twist, complete with an uncredited accordion player.
Well produced and recorded, there are some fine contributions from the experienced session musicians involved, making this an enjoyable disc with some standout tracks.