North Carolina native Chris Cook is one fine live performer, as those lucky enough to catch him on his recent tour (much of it spent in and around the Scottish Borders and beyond) will vouch. But it takes listening in the comfort of your home for you to fully realise just how wonderful an all-round musician—he plays a mean guitar and harmonica Cook really is. Remembering is the third of a trilogy of solo albums in as many years. Following in the footsteps of Life Is Good (2009), and Bag of Emotions (2008) this gifted songwriter has his albums peppered with a feast of top notch stories flavoured with r&b, blues and by way of co-producer Tim Carter’s banjo, Ferrell Stowe’ dobro and Guthrie Trapp’s mandolin a hint or two of country music.
Aided by Jeff Coffin (sax), Nashville legend, Kenny Malone (drums, percussion), Drake Leonard (bass), Johnny Neel (keyboards) and Ken Fradley (trumpet, flugal horn) to go with the above a hard core is cemented together to give Chris and his songs the elevation they richly deserve. In the past he has been compared in favourable terms to a number of acts but, it is as Chris Cook I prefer to view this hard working musician, a man who’s music is honest as a mid-summer’s day is long.
One of the pleasing aspects of Cook, and there is many is how in three minutes he gets out what he has to say. Crisp, clear and direct his songwriting hits the spot. I love the funky, killer grooves he crafts as with the opening cut ‘Remembering’ that is used as the title-cut not because it is the ‘best’ or ‘strongest song’ but due to the concept of reflection. Better in my mind are the likes of ‘Heartless Road’ that has the energy of Sam Bush (Mr Bush you would love this song!!) as banjo, harp and lead guitar whip up a storm, it is the kind of recording young kids and rock minded folk will love to crank up the volume (likewise could be said of swaggering r&b piece ‘Between A Rock & A Romance’ while less so and of a similar tone to Joe South’s golden oldie ‘Love Of The Common People’ his own ‘Chins Up High Spirits (Levine’s Song)’ is a song that has a host of good virtues. Two songs on the record that hit the road running ‘The Boy I Used To Know’ that has Malone lay down a superb foundation alongside keyboards and set the tempo for ‘Growing Up’. A song that speaks of skipping school and how he never thought he would live to where he questions where the time goes. Containing superb under layers of mandolin, acoustic guitar its simple lyrics are cared for in a fashion all too few acts know how.
Chris’ rich, strong as an oak vocals are of the kind that only come through years of work, and despite him yet 40 he has been on the road playing in bands and on his own for over twenty years (taken the knocks and got back up again). One of the songs close to his heart is older creation ‘Ezekiel’s Wheel’ that like a terrier, snaps at the heels of the listener. So reluctant is the song’s hook to let go no matter what.
Through the music and tempo alternating and themes varied Cook ensures the listener can never read what is coming next. Which is never better illustrated than when the lilting ‘Company Comin’ jumps in between a keyboard underpinned, ‘Get Over The One’ that speaks of a break up in a relationship and one of the best story-songs he’s written ‘Twenty-One’ (what great dobro work). So good is the song many people would be proud to have it and it alone, as their outstanding track yet Chris has a bunch of them! Now we only need him to gain the recognition he deserves.
FSR Video Log of Chris's recent Highland Dates herehttp://flyinshoes.ning.com/profiles/blogs/chris-cook-and-alan-amp