Phil Cook - All These Years Music Album Reviews

Phil Cook - All These Years Music Album Reviews
On these solo piano performances, the musician known for his work with Justin Vernon, Hiss Golden Messenger, and more suggests that peaceful solitude can offer its own high.

For a keyboardist who predominantly deals in stomping, heartland Americana, Phil Cook has a surprisingly extensive range. Since his early work in the Justin Vernon-helmed DeYarmond Edison and the influential psych-folk project Megafaun—which also featured his brother, the prolific indie producer Brad Cook—he has worked frequently alongside Vernon in bands like Gayngs and with MC Taylor in Hiss Golden Messenger. Beyond those projects, Cook served as musical director on a Blind Boys of Alabama record and even found his way onto a Kanye West album.

Cook’s latest solo album, All These Years, operates in familiar territory, blending elements of folk, gospel, jazz, and blues. This time, however, Cook presents these sounds in the context of intimate solo piano performances. Cook cites a conversation with musical hero Bruce Hornsby as inspiring him to dedicate his 40th year to “relearning” the piano, as Hornsby claims to have done at the same age. Already secluded due to the pandemic, he decided to take on Hornsby’s challenge and reflect on his first and primary musical instrument. He wrote the music during an artist retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains and then recorded the songs in a church in his hometown of Durham, North Carolina.

The follow-up to 2019’s instrumental collection As Far As I Can See is refreshing in its simplicity and nonchalance. Though known to fans as a beacon of outspoken positivity, Cook seldom indulges in his more familiar roots-rock impulses here, focusing instead on the core of his musical and thematic ideologies. By quieting down and highlighting just one element of his sound, Cook draws us closer to the ecstatic love of music and life that drives his art.

Despite the cohesive sound of the record, Cook expresses his wide-ranging influences: a seamless mix of Appalachian folk, blues, ragtime, gospel, jazz, and modern classical minimalism. These styles cohere to suggest something like inner peace, or at least the quiet thrill of brushing shoulders with it. (Fittingly, distant bird chirps, falling rain, and room sounds find their way into the recordings.)

Though mostly untethered to metronomic rhythm, the album is divided between more composed songs and looser improvisations. The early standouts feel more premeditated, though the performances are still pleasantly unrehearsed. “Brothers” is a yearning downtempo jazz ballad with soft but weighty chords emphasizing a lilting melodic structure. “All These Years” is a concise requiem with bright, glinting melodies. Even in the most upbeat moments, like the ragtime runaway solo on “Bicycle Kids,” Cook demonstrates a methodic patience and restraint that feels new to his work.

The second half of the record is more meditative, striving for space and openness, at times recalling the tempered transcendence of Ethiopian jazz pianists such as Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou and Hailu Mergia. The centerpiece “Long Run” builds from a repeated, lone piano note that joins with increasingly emphatic chord changes. Its horizon widens as sustained notes linger and thicken the atmosphere. Similarly, the gorgeous “Alone” spills with nimble and steady trills, triads, and arpeggios gliding into one another with delightful ease.

Where Cook once chased the emotional peaks of Americana jam sessions and singalongs, he now rests in the suspended tension of an emotional film score. In the best of these compositions, he substitutes his potent enthusiasm with quiet joy. Instead of a rallying cry, All These Years is a love letter to a life spent making music, arresting in its intimacy and immediacy. From an artist who once titled an album People Are My Drug, the music on All These Years suggests that peaceful solitude can offer its own high.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Phil Cook - All These Years Music Album Reviews Phil Cook - All These Years Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on December 15, 2021 Rating: 5


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