Scott Cook,
One More Time Around
(independent, 2013)

This is the fourth album released by Scott Cook, a western Canadian "prairie balladeer" and "an Edmonton-based, world-traveling songwriter with heart forever on sleeve." His music and his style both support these descriptions, as quoted from the intro on his website. His melodies do somehow paint a wide-screen landscape of the golden prairie, with grasses waving softly in time. It's a place where you can do some darned good thinking. And thinking is what Cook appears to do a lot of: about interactions with life, death, nature, politics and people. They're all here. We should expect nothing less from someone whose heroes include Sojourner Truth, Walt Whitman and Martin Luther King Jr.

Above all, this is a quiet, contemplative collection. The emphasis here is on the lyrics and not on the chords or the notes. It's a perfect plug-in for a slow day, or for one that you want to force to wind down. But you'll have to give this mature songwriter and performer your full attention. He won't settle for background status.

Two of the 10 tracks are ones that will stick in your head long after the CD has ended. "Pass It Along" opens the album and furthers the idea of perpetual continuity. The singer wonders who his guitar will pass on to, when he is gone. "Mama Always Said" advises the listener to "be careful with your love." Some nice choral vocals back Cook up on this one.

The other cuts are equally as thoughtful and provide many ponderable circumstances. "Among the Trees" revisits childhood memories, including the act of climbing trees. "When We're Back Around" considers someone that the singer broke up with and may someday get back together with again. "You Don't Find Out in the End" addresses the what-ifs and futilities of life. With its bluesy dobro strains, "Use Your Imagination" could be about love or about sex; or it could just be about surviving daily life. "Broke, & So Far from Home" is a solemn song that contains a sense of resigned finality. Cook defines the lyrics of "New Grist" as "Everything old is new again." Then "The Poet Game" is another consideration of life, and is a track that is somewhat spoken instead of sung. The last song, "One More Time Around," is the most mildly rockin' tune of the bunch. Another day has arrived, and we and the planet are indeed good for one more time around.

Cook's solo voice and guitar hit the spotlight here. A few friends offer some musical accompaniment on banjo, mbira, dobro, fiddle or even an occasional piano, bass, drum or vocal harmony. Again, the words are the most important parts. The CD case includes a booklet containing the song lyrics with guitar chord advice, in addition to some of Scott's opinions on issues. He has many.

Back in the day of classic album construction -- perhaps a few decades ago, by now -- producers and engineers and record execs paid attention to the production as a whole. Often the music was consistent and kept a steady pace throughout the album and was sometimes arranged to tell a story, with even an obvious climax song near the end. Then the final cut could hang back, could be contemplative or could add a conclusion, and could give the listeners a chance to ease back into reality. I'm thinking of Billy Joel's "And So It Goes," or "The End" by the Beatles. Well, all of the songs on this Scott Cook release could be the last song on an album.

One More Time Around makes for good listening, but you have to be an eager participant listener. If your mind and ears are ready, then Scott Cook can supply much musical food for thought.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
Corinne H. Smith

2 November 2013

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