Artist: Peter Cooper
Album: Depot Light: Songs of Eric Taylor
Label: Red Beet Records
Release Date: 11/13/2015
I have long admired Eric Taylor’s music. In fact, these are my words in this same magazine in 2008: “Let’s establish this now. Eric Taylor is not only one of the best Texas singer-songwriters in that hallowed tradition of Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and so many others. Taylor is one of the best songwriters, period.”
Peter Cooper is a singer-songwriter, college professor and an established music writer (and he’s a much better one than I am). But, like him, I often write about singer-songwriters in a prestigious publication, and agree that there are no singer/songwriters like Eric Taylor. So, I am backing Cooper’s insistence that this is not a tribute album. These are songs that deeply affected him, and he wants to sing them. Believe me – this is not easy to do. Taylor has a singular style that few, if any, can emulate. Cooper does a remarkable job – hence the high rating, which I rarely, if ever, have given to an album of cover songs. So, as Peter says in his notes – Listen. And then go to Eric Taylor’s rich catalog, and marvel at his gift for words, his signature guitar style and his unabashed independence. He never tries to sound or write like anyone else. Cooper certainly understands that, and while he does a terrific job here with an outstanding cast of musicians, he still doesn’t sound like Eric Taylor. He is just singing his songs.
Cooper selects many of Taylor’s best songs and even features one, “More Storms,” that Taylor never put on record. Cooper uses ten musicians on this album, far more than Taylor ever uses, enabling him to create some new textures around the songs. Guitarist Thomm Jutz doesn’t mirror Taylor’s guitar style, but does capture some of its same feel. Andrea Zonn’s gorgeous violin and viola bring out Taylor’s underrated gifts for melody and emotion.
If you are not familiar with Eric Taylor, you may be familiar with his song, “Deadwood,” heard on Nanci Griffith’s One Fair Summer Evening album. No matter which version you hear, including Cooper’s, you just have to marvel at the intricacies expressed in these lines describing a barroom: “The good times scratched a laugh from the lungs of the young man.” As another example, in “Louis Armstrong’s Broken Heart,” Taylor sums up loss, “Every night but one, by God, she came on home with me.” I don’t want to allude to more lyrics because, like Cooper, I very much want you to listen.
P.S. The Grammy-nominated duo, Peter Cooper and Eric Brace, are scheduled to release their fourth album, C & O Canal, today, January 22nd, and I can’t wait to hear it.
– Jim Hynes