Monday, November 29, 2010

Eric Brace & Peter Cooper

Master Sessions

Peter Cooper

The Lloyd Green Album

Red Beet Records

You only have to go four songs and one verse into Peter Cooper’s The Lloyd Green Album to find the lines that comprise what might be the purest distillation of every perfect country song: “There’s gonna be some wreckage when your dreams and your habits collide” from “Gospel Song.” Cooper, a Nashville singer-songwriter and journalist, follows up his debut, 2008s Mission Door with a record of emotionally deft songs, life lessons and character sketches of sketchy characters, all punctuated with the elegant pedal steel work of the legendary Pedal Steel Hall of Famer, Lloyd Green.

The purest moments come when its just Cooper’s voice rising over his acoustic guitar with Green’s swirling, mewing, swooping leads darting in and out, punctuating the sound (check out “That Poor Guy” or “Mama, Bake a Pie” for examples), but the tunes aren’t all sparse arrangements. Guitarist Richard Bennett and keyboardist Jen Gunderman add much, as do guest vocalists Rodney Crowell (who sings on “Tulsa Queen,” a track he and Emmylou Harris wrote) and Kim Carnes. Most of the tracks are Cooper’s own, although he shares a credit with Todd Snider on “The Last Laugh” (also heard on Todd’s The Excitement Plan) and with Baker Maultsby on the clever “What Dub Does.” Covers are impeccably chosen – Kris Kristofferson, John Hiatt and Tom T. Hall are pretty good sources. In fact, Cooper and Green’s reading of Hall’s “Mama, Bake a Pie” might be the best song of the bunch; the pedal steel work is as haunting and as aching as the poignant lyrics require. Green’s work is integral to this record; taking the songs to places they would never find themselves without his amazing, graceful talent to guide them there. We are lucky to be along for that ride.

But that’s just the opening act of a twin-bill punch. Along with Cooper’s record, Red Beet Records simultaneously released Master Sessions, wherein Eric Brace & Peter Cooper grab Green and dobro ace Mike Auldridge (Seldom Scene) along with a few other friends, hole up in a Nashville studio and concoct a incredibly charming record of graceful Americana. On the opening song, Herb Petersen’s “Wait A Minute,” Eric’s earthy, humid vocals blend with Cooper’s plaintive ones, backed with harmony from Kenny Chesney to roll above the Green and Auldridge’s astounding instrumental work, and is one of the best individual tracks I’ve heard this year. The rest of the record is wonderfully crafted folk/country with songs by Brace and Cooper as well as Don Schlitz (who wrote “The Gambler” among others), Tom T. Hall and John Hartford.

By themselves, either of these records are essential listens to the state of modern Americana music; together, they celebrate the past and illuminate the future.

Curtis Lynch

Playgrounds Magazine

November 2010

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