Jack Cooper,
Land of Plenty
(self-produced, 2001)

Land of Plenty has the initial sound of your run-of-the-mill folk music, but don't let the beginning song, "Harvest Time," lead you in that direction. There's a love of nature and fellow man prevalent in all these songs, but those feelings are tempered with reality's edge.

Jack Cooper's music is perfect for the second-generation John Denver fan. He's got a similar vocal range and higher nasal pitch. The difference, as a 21st-century folk musician, is that Cooper's music is not all sunshine on his shoulders making him happy. His lyrics are rather intricate, with an acerbic wit and an understated sarcasm. Check out the title track or "Gypsy Lady" for examples.

As with any good musician, Cooper also has a gentle side. "Jeremy" is a sweet and lovely song about providing joy to an autistic boy through music. "These Bones Are Gonna Rise Again" is a haunting yet soft rendition of the traditional song.

"Black-Eyed Susie" is probably the best song on the album. Cooper flexes his folk range and weaves a mild thread of blues into this tune. Rick Fines does a fine job on the slide dobro, providing the proper backdrop for the guitars.

This album is obviously a labor of love and it shows in every song. Cooper's vocal performance is consistent and his guitar is well-played. The success of his album is largely due to his back-up performers, especially the wonderful percussion work of Matthew Shawn Fleming. With Land of Plenty, Cooper and his entourage infuse their own wit to create an inviting contribution into the folk music tradition.

[ by C. Nathan Coyle ]
Rambles: 20 July 2002