Sat May 06 2017 8:00 pm
Ernie Hendrickson

“I’d like to get stoned,” sings Alice Peacock over a shambling electric guitar at the beginning of her fourth album, Love Remains.

It’s a startling, if tongue-in-cheek, way to kick off a set of country-tinged pop-rock tunes recorded in the heart of Nashville. But like the title of the song in which it appears, “All About Me,” it’s also a tad misleading.

In fact, the song is about setting aside self-indulgent fantasies to embrace love and commitment, and after a few verses of wistful imaginings about Jack Kerouac road trips and “no sacrifice,” Peacock concludes – as swelling pedal steel and honky-tonk piano guide the waltz – “The life that I’ve got/ I guess that it’s not/ All about me.”

The song provides a fitting gateway to the album’s deepest themes and a statement of purpose after Peacock’s acclaimed 2005 album, the introspective, piano-driven Who I Am. “Enough navel-gazing!” Peacock declares with a laugh.

“This is a really positive record,” says the Chicago-based singer/songwriter. “It’s a reflection of where I am in my life and what really matters to me now. The title comes from this idea that other things fade away but love remains.” The often buoyant, outwardly focused lyrics are mirrored by a largely ebullient musical approach rife with feel-good guitar hooks and heartland grooves.

It might seem a radical departure for a classic-pop troubadour like Peacock, but she says her primary collaborator on the disc, co-producer/co-writer Danny Myrick, made it feel pretty easy.

The two found that the commonalities in their backgrounds – Myrick is the son of a southern Baptist preacher, Peacock the daughter of a northern Methodist minister – strongly influenced their co-creation. “Danny and I grew up singing in church, like a lot of preachers’ kids,” Peacock reflects. “Music was always really important for us, even if we didn’t necessarily buy the theology. There was good and not so good in our upbringing, but you don’t need to throw out the baby with the bathwater.”

“Writing with Danny brought me back to the best memories of my upbringing,” she adds. “The music we’re doing now is spiritual – and this record is in some ways a homecoming, reclaiming the essence of the faith we had growing up.”

That faith is reflected in myriad ways on Love Remains: in the joyous embrace of divergent paths (the rollicking “Real Life,” the rocking L.A. kiss-off “City Of Angels,” the Cajun-flavored travelogue “Fairborn”); in the humbling experience of finding a soul mate (the delicate, accordion-and-banjo-spiced “Lovely,” the playfully old-fashioned “Wrong Time”); in understanding one’s own limits and life’s unpredictability (“Do What I Can Do,” the expansive, gospel-inflected “Trying To Hold Back Time”); in the necessity of opening one’s heart in an often bitter world (the punchy, resolute “Forgiveness”); in the acknowledgement of death’s inevitability and human connection as the true measure of our lives (the timeless-sounding title track).