DOC HEIDE AND THE PILLS – Peaceful Kingdom
Doc Heide comes from Packer country, where he’s better known as an actor, a writer of screenplays and musicals, a co-founder of the American Folklore Theater in the Door Peninsula, and has an actual doctorate. He teaches psychology at the California School of Clinical Psychology, where he’s an associate professor. Surprisingly from a man who co-authored the musical Packer Fans from Outer Space, there is not one mention of his favorite team on his second CD, Peaceful Kingdom. Rather, it is a more spiritual affair, influenced certainly by growing up in a family with strong religious beliefs, but also by the recent loss of several family members and friends.
In light of that, it is not surprising that mortality figures heavily into many of the songs. “Sweet Peace” tells three tales not specifically of death, but more exactly of finding the elusive comfort of the title. Eddie runs his Buick into a semi, Cindy is on a plane about to go down, an unnamed woman just pronounced dead opens her eyes to give us a glimpse of the afterlife, a serene and hopeful vision: “I was cradled in light brighter than day / A love stronger than I can say.”
While most of the disc’s material predicts peace, several tracks look at those headed the other direction. “Hell That I Know,” featuring a menacing Skynyrd-like lead electric guitar from Eric Lewis, spins the tale of a cowboy’s encounter with Death. He escapes with quick thinking, insisting that he would rather stay in the hell that he knows. For some, though, there is still time. In “Life Review,” the narrator realizes that when his time comes he may not look so good (“I’ll watch myself behaving like a pain in the wazoo”). After giving us examples of the things he’s done, he says he has to go “’cuz I’ve got stuff to do / Before I have my life review.” Typical of Heide’s G-rated writing, none of his sins seem so bad. He won’t even say “ass.”
In fact, “Saint Jude” confirms his dedication to avoiding the a-word. In his light-hearted evocation of the patron saint of lost causes, he uses another synonym, stating, “I could not find my hinder with both hands.” “Jacob’s Ladder,” “Where Angels Fly” and the title track (which pleasantly recalls the Allman Brothers’ “Melissa”) all contain an elements of devotion. Other songs, like the amusing “When Dogs Could Talk” and the final number, “Emerson Blues,” with its “Sweet Home Chicago” melody and lyrics taken mostly from Ralph Waldo Emerson, are breezy fun, but they are the exception. While I hesitate to label Peaceful Kingdom Christian rock, there may be just enough religion in it to put off the secular listener.