Red Beet Records
The studious eight-year old in a Braves cap on the cover of this record is indeed Peter Cooper, the guy who thirty-five years later is writing the liner notes for his third solo album from Australia. The man has clearly come a long way, and it’s those parts in between Atlanta Fulton County Stadium and a continent a half a world away that make this record such a delight.
The first of eleven tracks is the autobiographical Much Better Now, where Cooper details some of his employment history (among others, a waiter in a buffet restaurant where the people “can’t see their feet.”) The man who gave us the best song ever about baseball (715 (For Hank Aaron) from his 2008 debut release Mission Door) comes back with another excellent one in the title track, where unbridled optimism at the beginning of the season when “we’re tied for first with the whole season left to play” gives way to grim reality (“with a couple of breaks we might take fourth place”) by the end of the first verse.
Cooper’s songwriting has matured tremendously on this record. Always able to turn a phrase inside out effortlessly, here his attention to detail in each song complements the clever word-play. As with his always excellent columns in the Tennessean, he writes with a detective’s eye, picking out details that define people, moments, situations. He takes a subject, builds on it, expands it, makes his point and most importantly, since we’re talking about songs, he makes it rhyme. The mood shifts from light-hearted (the eye-rolling Grandma’s Tattoo, co-written with Tommy Womack) to serious (Quiet Little War is about drone warfare and how you can fight a war in Afghanistan from New Mexico and go home to your wife each night or Jenny Died at 25, the type of death where you go on living.), but all the tracks are finely honed pieces, illustrated by pedal steel legend Lloyd Green, Jen Gunderman on keys, bass from Dave Jacques and Dave Roe, vocals from Eric Brace (with whom he’s recorded two fine albums), guitars from Richard Bennett (Mark Knopfler Band) and producer Thomm Jutz.
Peter Cooper is a journalist, a college professor and student of country music, a guest DJ on radio, a baseball fan and luckily for us, a songwriter and a musician. With Opening Day, Cooper steps up into the bigs.