Scott CookScott Cook
Album: One More Time Around
Label: Groove Revival
Tracks: 10

Alberta-based Scott Cook's known as the Prairie Balladeer - and judging from this album he's the quintessential troubadour: soft-voiced, he sounds laid-back and easygoing but it's obvious he's lived the life too. He's spent most of the past six years on the highways and byways, scratching out a living with the song-trafficking trade. One More Time Around is a lovingly crafted set of songs that together form what Scott calls a "love letter to the world". It's one of those records that seems almost too good to be true, with its attention to detail. And that facet extends right into the really lavish booklet that's tucked neatly inside a sturdy cardboard package that's already adorned with some strikingly beautiful artwork.

Scott's life-philosophy is summed up by the extensive quote from Walt Whitman's Song Of The Open Road that's reproduced on the front of that booklet, and his introductory essay runs to nearly ten pages and contains his eminently reasoned and sensible thoughts on modern-day developments in the record release game, bemoaning the lack of poetry in presentation these days - hence this state-of-the-art 36-pager, the remainder of which presents lyrics and chords, background notes and personnel credits for each song. All of these are self-penned, save The Poet Game, which comes from Greg Brown (in whose own writings Scott admits to finding a very strong kinship. For Scott greatly admires Greg's plain-spoken open-heartedness, and those qualities are present in abundance in Scott's own writing, so he's clearly learnt much from his role-model.

Scott's turn of phrase is gently witty, and his imagery unpretentious as he frankly and sometimes painfully addresses and confronts the lessons learned through life on the roads. The musical settings he adopts are simple and beautifully judged and his own intricate fingerstyle guitar patterns most appealing, while good use is made of a select crew of supporting musicians playing guitars, banjo, piano, dobro, fiddle, upright bass and drumkit, these being sparingly scored, except on the closing title number, which rocks a little more. The standout songs score high on memorability - Pass It Along, When We're Back Around, Broke And So Far From Home, the nostalgic Among The Trees and the bluesy reflection Use Your Imagination probably being the pick of the tracks. The drawback however is that however much Scott deliberately varies the instrumental texturings and slightly adjusts the rolling tempos, his overall mood is too uniform, placid even, and on occasion sounds almost too content for the content (if you get my drift).

For the album's continuing "dialogue between optimism and despair", though pleasing and listenable, does in the end feel a touch unrelieved, and Scott does have a tendency to make even the darker moments sound a touch too pleasant, with his warm-toned delivery and soft melodies. But then, as he says, we need to make the most of what we're given, for everything in life is borrowed to some extent…

David Kidman

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