Charles William Ashworth, better known as Charlie Peacock, was born on August 10, 1956 in Yuba City, California. His musical accomplishments are numerous. He co-wrote Amy Grant’s 1991 hit ‘Every Heartbeat’. He discovered and signed mega-selling Switchfoot. He produced BARTON H0LLOW (2011) for which The Civil Wars won a Grammy for Best Folk Album. Three of my favourite songs from Charlie’s own albums are: ‘In the Light’, ‘One Man Gets Around’, and ‘That’s the Point’. In 1999 he wrote a book, AT THE CROSSROADS, touted as an insider’s look at the past , present, and future of CCM.
Charlie’s latest CD is NO MAN’S LAND (2012, Charlie Peacock and Twenty Ten Music). In the liner notes, Charlie writes: “These songs are inspired by the grit, gumption, and faith of my grandparents over several generations...especially James and Keziah Ashworth who first settled in the No Man’s Land of Louisiana in the early 1800’s.” He adds: “This dedication extends to the musical legacy of my late father, trumpeter Bill Ashworth, and in particular recognizes my fiddle-playing great-grandfather George Reilly Baggett whose one tintype photograph inspired this work as much as anything.”
‘Death Trap’ is the tremendous album opener. It has an old country feel and reminds us to think before we speak: “If a man can’t hold his tongue, till the anger is done/He’ll be walkin’ right into a death trap/The devil’s got a hold on me, he’s a hopin’ for a kill/I don’t deserve no mercy no, but mercy Lord if You will/I know better but I don’t know better.” ‘Mystic’ is a tender song about a pilgrimage and a homecoming of sorts for Charlie: “I’m going down to Mystic, Louisiana, looking for the meaning in the dirt/This is my story, my story is my glory-my shame, my comfort, my hurt/It’s all that I’ve got, all that I’ve never had.”
‘Voice of the Lord’ is a story song that makes a statement against racism: “I don’t know if the ferryman sees us/I don’t know if he’s got me in his sights/Far as I know he’s a sittin there wonderin’/If I be black or if I be white/It’s a damn shame, a crying shame/I know who I am/I belong to the Maker/I’m the color of love/Given to livin’ in no man’s land.” ‘Kite in A Tree’ is a pleasant country ballad that has great lyrical depth: “Nickels, dimes, and dollar bills pile up in dusty corners/They smell like lonesome feels in the shadows of the day/There’s a deeper river running, if only it would find me/And cut me like a canyon, wild and free/Shine that light in my eyes till I’m blind with vision/Lead me down to the river and drown me in the poetry of your imagination.” This is one of many songs featuring the terrific female harmony vocals of Ruby Amanfu.
‘Deep Inside a Word’ includes great electric guitar work and makes me think of a grandfather reminiscing: “Tall and thin, he bends with the wind/At every place a body breaks he bends/And the stories, the stories, he tells from a view very few know well/Oh the humor, the insight, and the will to never age.../He’s deep inside a rhythm, he’s deep inside a word.../He’s a poet in search of visceral delight/To wow the huddled masses and finally get it right.” ‘Let the Dog Back in the House’ is a humorous, but seriously performed song, that is centred around a quarrel in a relationship: “I wonder what it would be like if we could get along/I wonder if the dog would howl (2X)/I wonder if the dog would howl if we could get along/Till then let’s keep him in the backyard tied up to a tree/Cause I don’t want that hound dog to hear us disagree.”
‘Beauty Left the Room’ is a smooth, jazz influenced pop song. It is a comment about the nature of time as much as it is on anything else: “You can rise before the morning sun, end the day and not be done/That’s the way it is in the work of finding courage/You gotta ask yourself now, ‘Hey, what’s the rush, what’s the hurry?’/Here I am again, with my pencil and paper/Listening for a sign, a word from my Maker.” ‘Till My Body Comes Undone’ is a quiet song about living with purpose: “It’s never peace and safety, it’s always asking why/I’m swimming in the blessing, not waiting ‘round to die/Well, I got my hand in everything and nothing at all/I’m runnin’ like a whirlwind, while waiting for the call/I’m trippin’ in the darkness, lit up like a sun/I’m falling for a vision till my body comes undone.”
‘Thinkin’ Till the Crack of Dawn’ has classic old country style lyrics about a vice common to many men: “Should’ve been home yesterday, I got no one but myself to blame/For missin’ that train/I stayed up too late drinkin’ with a man from Texas who’d been/All over the world and the world had not been kind to him/He got me thinkin’ and you know when I start thinkin’/I’ll think a bottle till every thought is gone.” ‘Ghost of the Kitty Cat’ is a playful song that definitely has unique lyrics: “Go out back little one, to the tool shed/Where you found that kitty cat stone cold dead/Guard your mind from the memory, turn your head if need be/But bring me a crowbar big enough to pry the pump door open and don’t you cry/If the ghost of the kitty cat comes to you, you just run, we got work to do.”
‘Only You Can’ is a reminder that we all ultimately need a relationship with God, as earthly pleasures and pursuits leave a void in us: “I’ve been rich, I’ve been poor, I refused myself nothing I desired/And my heart took delight in dreaming and scheming of more/Well, I hate to see it end, God knows, I love to chase the wind.../Somewhere someone’s praying: ‘God help this broken man/No one, no thing on earth can fix him, only You can’/No one, no thing on earth can fix me, only You can.” ‘Satellites’ probably is the song that sounds the most, musically, like something off of an earlier Peacock project. It is happy sounding and reflects on a pleasant male-female relationship in a vivid manner: “We lost ourselves in laughter then gorged ourselves soon after/On bread of round dimension and cheap strawberry wine/That was, still is, one ecstatic, long chromatic evening/You could feel the pull of satellites on that summer night/And your kiss, like a peach, like a harvest full moon/Was the flesh that shook me, the best that ever knew me.”
NO MAN’S LAND is far more artistic and creative than much of today’s Christian music. The instrumentation is quite eclectic and includes the use of accordion, banjo, clarinets, saxes, piccolo, fiddle, pedal and lap steel, horns, and guitars. Charlie’s son, Sam Ashworth, provides male harmony vocals. The CD booklet and packaging includes Ashworth family photographs and documents. Fans of the Lost Dogs, and the solo works of Terry Scott Taylor and Michael Roe, will appreciate this splendid album of Americana music. I’m rating NO MAN’S LAND 95%. For more info visit www.charliepeacock.com