The drummer provides a band not only the backbeat but quite often its brains. Everything about Andy Peake’s 11-track “Mood Swings” is thought-out and groovy.
The son of musical church performers, Peake has played drums in all kinds of bands from jazz to country. He led Big Shoes, which started in 2011 as a Little Feat tribute and evolved to an electric blues and R&B supergroup.
Creative restlessness perhaps drove him to leave the project in late 2019 and a pandemic created time to make “Mood Swings,” which has cover art that mirrors what’s inside: The more you pay attention to either, the more details you see or hear.
There’s nothing extra showy here, save for some playful vocal delivery. The musicianship from the talented Nashville players is precise and slightly restrained, leaving a bit of tension that keeps the listener’s ears glued to the songs. And the tight, live percussion keeps it all on its tracks.
The opening song, “Make Peace With The Blues,” immediately sets a dreamy soundscape, one of the many moods set with a wide musical brush. It’s one of seven tunes on the record that Peake wrote or co-wrote.
Peake plays in the heartfelt spirit of fellow drummer/bandleader Levon Helm, writes with the wit of a Mose Allison and sings in a loud whisper as often heard from Ry Cooder.
If the listeners here are blues lovers, Peake knows his audience with the self-deprecating “Hip Replacement,” when he sings “Your ceiling is another man’s floor.” The title song, “Mood Swings,” and “Bitter Pill” can stand as the album’s showcase tunes. But the James Taylor-esque “Untangle The Line” also is brilliant.
There is driving emotion and blend of rock and R&B with “Another Day, Another Teardrop,” written for this album by Dave Duncan and Karen Leipziger. And speaking of Nashville stars, keyboardist and renowned producer Kevin McKendree plays on “ ‘If The Blues Was Green,’ I’d have you to thank. You can take that to the bank.”
The album concludes with “Johnny B. Goode,” one of rock’s most covered songs, but if you still don’t love it, there’s a hole in your gunny sack of a soul. This version includes a zydeco accordion and New Orleans’ second-line drums, which makes sense because the story is about a Louisiana “country boy.” Songwriter Chuck Berry was, in fact, from Missouri, as was Peake, who rose out of a small town to become the leader of a great and big band.
“Mood Swings” draws from many palettes and is a truly musical artistry.
- Andy Peake
Label: Biglittle Records
Release: Friday, Aug. 20, 2021
Favorite tracks: ‘Untangle The Line,’ ‘Make Peace With The Blues’