It's a little intimidating to write a review of a Peter Cooper album. In addition to being a musician, Cooper is a highly respected music critic. He's written for Nashville's The Tennessean newspaper for years.
Luckily, Cooper's new album requires little criticism. As is implied by the title, Cooper is joined on this project by big time session player Lloyd Green on steel guitar. Green plays on all 12 tracks. And while his playing is often understated and serves to accent the songs rather than drive them, it's hard to imagine them without him. The texture he adds to tracks like Cooper's Gospel Song and Tom T. Hall's Mama, Bake a Pie with his emotive fills are what elevates the songs to a higher level.
As for Cooper's part (it is his album after all), he wrote or co-wrote 7 of the 12 songs. The fact that his songs stand capably beside (and at times above) covers of songs by Hall, Kris Kristofferson, John Hiatt and Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris speaks volumes of Cooper's abilities as a songwriter. His easy turns of a phrase in songs like The Last Laugh (a co-write with Todd Snider) and That Poor Guy add a touch of humor to songs about downtrodden individuals.
The highlight though is Hall's Mama, Bake a Pie, the darkly humorous tale of a soldier returning home from war. Cooper delivers Hall's words with just the right amount of pathos as the soldier and his family quip jokes to mask their pain. Green's steel and Julie Lee's backing vocals add that extra layer of heartache to this song about the Vietnam War that, unfortunately, still rings true today.
Maybe it's not so hard to critique a critic. At least it isn't when the critic produces an album like this.