Peter Cooper,
Mission Door
(Red Beet, 2008)

Peter Cooper comes upon the scene highly praised. The CD cover features rave quotes from Kris Kristofferson and Peter Case (who cowrites a song on the CD and appears on it.) Cooper has a background that places him all over the edges of the music industry; he's the music writer and critic for The Tennesean and contributes to Esquire, No Depression, CMT and other sources, as well as teaching country music history at Vanderbilt. Now, he's steppd into the ring with a singer-songwriter album, produced by himself and dobro master Lloyd Green.

How is the resulting CD? I'd have to give it a solid "pretty good."

Cooper is a fine songwriter, with a wide variety of subjects and approaches. He writes in praise of wine, Townes Van Zandt, being drunk in Sheboygan. Most of the songs shine, but the exceptional ones are "715 (for Hank Aaron)," which has as its centerpiece a strong recitation about the baseball slugger; "Andalasia," about Hank Williams; and "Thin White Mercury," which tells about the time Bob Dylan called Phil Ochs a journalist instead of a songwriter and threw him out of the car. Obviously, this is a writer with skills, taste and range.

When it comes to singing, though, Cooper is not as strong. He comes across as too laid-back, too polite. Songs that need to be given an anthem-like treatment are merely sung. You keep waiting for the energy to kick in and it doesn't.

Mission Door is well worth hearing and I hope it gets a wide reception, but I fear it's going to wind up as a sort of demo that other singers will raid for cuts on their own CDs.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Michael Scott Cain

2 August 2008

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