Scott Cook – Tangle of Souls + 240pp Book
No denying the quality of this expensive Scott Cook project — this 12-cut CD with a 240-page cloth bound hardcover book chronicling a life-changing health crisis (Scott Cook) & drawing a parallel to each crisis we face as a society is well-intentioned. I appreciate what Scott has to say — sometimes. I worry about the weight of the effort since this is not a major label release nor is Cook a household name.
Scott has been a relentless touring act since 2007. Toured the world as a DIY troubadour & earned his 2nd Canadian Folk Music Award nomination for songwriter of the year.
The bulk of his 7th release Tangle of Souls (drops Aug 7 – Independent) was recorded in Australia. It includes the string band, She’ll Be Rights, with Australians Liz Frencham (upright bass/harmony vocals), fiddlers Esther Henderson, Kat Mear & Cam Neufeld, Steve Vella (bass), Pete Fidler (dobro wizard) & fellow Canadian Bramwell Park (banjo/mandolin/guitar/harmony vocals).
The tunes are performed with sincerity though somewhat reliably in a retro style. They’re well-played & firmly planted in a folk tradition. Mindful of traditionalists like Tom Rush, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, & Tom Russell but lacking the vigor of a Dave Van Ronk, the protest inclinations of Phil Ochs, the intensity of a Dylan. But the tunes have inspiring lyrics, well-performed with depth & purity.
Cook is a good storyteller (“Just Enough Empties”) but doesn’t have a distinctive voice like a Buddy Miller. He sings credibly – has a good showcase rooted in what he deeply believes. It’s obvious & admirable. Some songs are penetrating while others less so. He has enthusiasm & vocal confidence.
On the surface, Cook remains almost neutral politically. But has his issues to sing about as most folk artists do. He provides an honest man’s appeal & leans more toward the citizen, & hard worker. Yet, there is little in the way of solutions but that’s not his job.
Many subjects Cook tackles are indeed issues that need a resolution. “Say Can You See,” is a fine folk song that doesn’t raise eyebrows but will tug at heartstrings. “Tulsa,” has a nice Buddy Miller vocal style with Anna Tivel (fiddle). I enjoy Cook’s presentation. He cares. I don’t agree with everything he says but I don’t review that part of the program. My concern is whether it will be affordable? Will people buy it?
There are 9 originals, a fine re-work of Dick Blakeslee’s 1940’s anthem “Passin’ Through” & a fiddle tune “Rollin’ To You,” with John Hartford qualities & Cook’s best vocal. “Tangle of Souls,” is upbeat with well-written lyrics. If you enjoy old-fashioned yet cohesive folk music Scott Cook should be high on a want list. It’s a good investment in a worthy artist.
The ambitious, impressive book manufactured by Ilex Media has lyrics, chords, stories, colorful images, handsomely created by Australian artist Cecilia Sharpley. The 49-minute CD was produced with assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts. Website: https://scottcook.net/