Canadian troubadour Scott Cook takes us on a long and happy road trip on Tangle Of Souls.
Release Date: 9th October 2020
Label: Self Release
Formats: CD/book, limited vinyl/book, Download
Scott Cook has lived on the road since 2007. In that time he has been able not only to tour extensively around Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Africa and elsewhere but also to record and release seven albums. Tangle Of Souls, his latest offering, follows his successful 2017 album, Further Down The Line which sold over 10,000 copies, and continues to set out lessons learned from on-the-road mixing with people of all nationalities, religious backgrounds and political persuasions. This time it’s also set against a background of climate change and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Tangle Of Souls is a lavish package. The CD and vinyl versions each come complete with a 240-page hardback, cloth-bound book which tells the story of a recent life-changing health crisis and draws parallels to the crises we are increasingly facing in our own societies. But, fancy packaging or no fancy packaging, it’s the music that’s at the core of this intriguing album, and that music is a pleasure to behold.
The album was recorded mainly in Australia and Scott is backed on most of the songs by his regular band, The She’ll Be Rights, and a great sound they make too! The band comprises Liz Frencham on upright bass, Bramwell Park on banjo, mandolin and guitar, Esther Henderson and Kat Mear on fiddle and Pete Fidler on dobro. The instrumentation is generally sparse, with production focus rightly given to Scott’s thoughtful lyrics, but is entirely appropriate to the songs and fluent and entertaining on the occasions that the band do let rip. Overall, the music and the production have a home-made feel to it that perfectly suits the songs and the underlying theme.
We kick off with Put Your Good Foot In The Road, a rousing and optimistic bluegrass song that points out the general goodness of people everywhere, regardless of who, or what, they are, and encourages the listener to get out there and get involved. Leave the Light on conveys a familiar sentiment (think Creedence and Long As I Can See The Light…) in a fresh new format, with Scott’s voice at the front of the mix and a pared-back string bass and banjo backing.
We reach the album’s first real highlight with track three, Just Enough Empties, an intimate memoir of Scott’s early years in remote, rural Alberta. The song contains some wonderfully atmospheric slide guitar work and the lyrics will strike a chord with anyone who returns to their hometown after a long time away.
Say You Can See is another of the album’s best songs; a shrewd commentary on the current state of the world which rails particularly against the greedy factions who line their own pockets at the expense of the working population. The song contains some marvellous references to the “dickheads on the hill” and points out that “It’s not about right and left, It’s about right and wrong.” Spot on!
Moving on, Tulsa is a gentle guitar contemplation and What To Keep is a brutally honest piece of self-contemplation, bang up-to-date with its references to the dismantling of statues of people once (but no longer) considered to be heroes.
Passin’ Through, one of the three non-original tracks on the album is a cover of Dick Blakeslee’s 1940 activist album that will be familiar to Leonard Cohen followers. It’s an excellent version, with some lovely, sleazy violin parts, jangling mandolin and slide guitar work that would grace a Ry Cooder album. The lyrics are as relevant today as they were 75 years ago and contain messages that every populist should heed. We return to bluegrass for Rollin’ to You, a countrified road tune with goodtime fiddle and banjo and lots of not-quite-yodelling before getting back to contemplative lyricism and the basic bass/banjo backing for Let Love Have Its Way, a track that really grows on you!
Why Am I Leaving My Home Again is probably the most accessible song on the album. It’s an instantly likeable country ballad that incorporates yet more tasty fiddling and some nice vocal harmonies. Tangle Of Souls (the title track) is, in my view, the strongest cut on the album. It’s another traveling song and it builds splendidly. Right to Roam, an original instrumental with a Scottish feel closes the album. Fiddle and banjo take the lead in pleasant tune to round off an enjoyable album.
Tangle Of Souls deserves to be heard. It’s a tuneful collection and the songs are all well played, but it’s the lyrics that provide the most distinguishing characteristic. As we attempt to make sense of the world, the pandemic and the antics of our leaders during this confusing time, Tangle Of Souls provides us with some useful signposts.
Watch the official video for Leave A Light On from the album here: