West Texas newcomer Ross Cooper created a buzz last year with this album, so much so that Billboard gave it kudos. Cooper has had some hard knocks, namely having a stint as a bronc rider on the rodeo circuit for a period of time. But this collection of tunes will keep your attention for far, far longer than any eight-second ride.
In the vein of singers such as Kevin Welch and Rod Picott who can weave a nifty arrangement around just as equally pleasing words, Cooper brings his best to start with the title track. The song is plain, but instantly infectious and wastes no time becoming some form of Americana ear candy. Yet, from there, Cooper forces the issue a bit with a mid-tempo pop rocker "Mary," which brings to mind a lighter, early version of Steve Earle. Not a bad song, just not a real gem among the 11 here. A far better effort is a tender roots-pop ditty entitled "Your Heart's My Home," the only song Cooper didn't pen by himself, but soars thanks to a delectable homestretch that fleshes things out perfectly.
Cooper shows a different side of himself with each song, proving he is a jack-of-all-trades with the crawling "Running Away" being a bit of a Waits-ian breezer before the crunchy chorus takes hold. However, he returns to the opening song's promise with another gentle jewel "Don't Remember" that features some lovely harmonies from Tori Vasquez and lap steel work by Jon Taylor. Probably the album's keeper is the ambling "Witches" that is in no hurry to conclude, inching along down a road well walked by Dylan, Cash and others. What isn't a keeper is the follow-up number "It Might Be Love - Theater On 67th." Here Cooper tries to marry what sounds like two different song ideas into one with less than stellar results.
The singer hits the homestretch with the brilliant "Girl From The Diner," a rockabilly-inspired romp, which hits the ground running and is relentlessly fun. Nic Shute's trumpet accents give it a distinct Tex-Mex feel before soaring. It's a song that would give Raul Malo and his Mavericks crew a run for their money. And the finale is "Lullaby For My Darlin," a warm, folksy waltz-ish piece of work with Cooper helped by Candy Kuo on harmonies.
This is a fine first effort from Ross Cooper. And if for some strange reason you don't warm up to it instantly, heed the title.