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Cook's "Moon" Is Definitely on the Country Side
on June 10, 2005
Prime Cuts: Here's to You; Cupid; Kiss Me Again
Imagine if Emmylou Harris had not dabble with the New Age ethereal foray of Americana and continues to cut albums entrenched with solidly country tunes "This Side of the Moon" could be it. Coming from the same vocal school as Harris, Cook has that mellifluous vocal with that distinct brush of southern charm, minus the country veteran's weathered worn texture. Further, her girlish coy and odylic sassiness will undoubtedly bring comparisons with Kelly Willis and Dolly Parton. Penning or co-penning 12 out of these 13 tracks and with most of them nudging under 3 minutes, this Floridian native certainly is not on the verbose side. And brevity is the soul of wit here. Cook has an acerbic outlook to love and life and she captures them just right on these paeans. Every track is a perfect capsule without an ounce of fat. Compared to her 2002 Warner Brothers debut "Hey Y'all," this set is even stronger and ironically more radio savvy.
The first 6 tracks are all stellar and they are tailored made for country radio. Given the right promotion, it's not difficult to see how the sensuous country ballad "Kiss Me Again" can make a dent in the upper echelon of the Billboard charts. Assisted by some mournful sounding steel guitars, "Kiss Me Again" is a desperate plea by Cook to her paramour to give their love another try. Fetching indeed is Cook's girlish, almost fragile vocals, which gives this weeper such an inherent believability. Another charmer is the album opener "Cupid," a honky tonk imbued toe-taper that finds an infatuated Cook blaming the god of love for the euphoria of love. Love's entangling prowess is again the theme of "Here's to You." With its sing-a-long chorus framed by some ambrosial fiddling, this could be an instant scorcher in the hands of say Martina McBride or Lee Ann Womack. Less jovial is the gorgeously penned piano ballad "Before I Go That Far," which finds a frustrated protagonist making her kiss off by engaging in ménage-a-trios with her new found flame.
Also thumbs are up when it comes to the Bakersfield-infused "All We Need is Love." Though the lyrics are edged on being juvenile ("I think you're hot/You think I'm good looking/I like your muscles/You like my cooking), this Tim Carroll (Cook's hubby) tune has such an infectious melody that all is forgivable. However, Cook is not able to get away that successfully when it comes to the more bluesy tunes like "Ruthless" or "Heather Are You with Me Tonight." There's not enough grit and soul within her to tackle such numbers with conviction and credibility.
Nevertheless, if you are looking for songs that championed for neo-traditional country (a la Alan Jackson and George Strait) "This Side of the Moon" will not disappoint. Instead of drowning out the singer, the production is spot on: often subdued yet subtle enough to enhance the emotional nuances of each paean. Further, Cook's voice is a delight, in the midst of many divas who scream their heads off, Cook sings to soothe, excite and convince. And she does it with honors.