CD Review of Who I Am by Alice Peacock

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Who I Am
starstarhalf starno starno star Label: Peacock Music
Released: 2006
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For an artist most people still haven’t heard of, Alice Peacock has endured a number of twists and turns in her recording career; Who I Am represents the third makeover for Peacock in as many releases. After making an unsuccessful jump from indie folksinger to airbrushed pop princess with her self-titled Sony debut a few years ago, Peacock has forsaken the major-label route again – she’s back on her own imprint – for her latest effort.

In discussing the new album, Peacock uses a lot of words like “natural” and “comfortable”; she even likens the record to an old flannel shirt. It’s an unfortunately apt comparison – though the performances and production are certainly clean and organic enough, the songs are often about as interesting as an age-worn button-down.

Given the album’s piano-centric sound and heavy use of live strings, the clear point of reference here is Carole King’s Tapestry; obviously, an artist could crib from far worse sources, but Peacock doesn’t have the material to weather the comparison favorably. King herself is definitely no stranger to easy sentimentality or pithy platitudes disguised as insight, but her best songs – particularly those on Tapestry – are limned with a genuine pathos absent from Who I Am.

There’s nothing offensive about this. Alice Peacock can be a genuinely engaging songwriter and performer, and these songs boast heaping helpings of her trademark stiff-upper-lip positivity. The production, by Andrew Williams (late of the Williams Brothers), is absolutely perfect. And the musicians deserve no small amount of credit for recording the basic tracks completely live.

But as an album, it’s too resolutely, unflinchingly pleasant to have much of an impact. Even when Peacock is singing about an asshole ex-lover (“Taught Me Well”), she sounds like she’s smiling, and when she really does try to be playful, as on “Runaway Day,” the results are heartbreakingly dippy. By the time she croons, “My sexuality / Belongs to no one else but me,” on the not-quite-a-title-track “Who Am I,” your eyes may be sore from rolling.

All things considered, Who I Am would be a decent enough listen if it weren’t so long; many of these songs have honest charm, in a soothing, background-music sort of way. “Baby Come Back” (no, not the Player hit), “Finding My Way,” and “Here I Go Again” are just a few of the set’s more enjoyable moments – but at 14 tracks, the record suffers from an interminable drag. After awhile, it starts to feel like death by vanilla pudding

~Jeff Giles