I saw Scott Cook for the first time December 6 2012 at the Artery in Edmonton, a stop on his Tres Hombres tour. I asked his permission to take some photographs - based upon the smile he flashed me when he said "yes" I realized this is one genuine and likeable man. That evening he and the band were both electric and electrified - especially during a fervently sung cover of Grateful Dead's "Truckin'". Since then he's been on tour again, to Northern BC and the Yukon. He has learned to paint (he wanted to do his own album art for his new CD). He wrote, played on, and co-produced this new CD. He put together a band for the CD tour. He arranged the tour which will take him from Alberta to the interior BC, to Vancouver Island, and down to Washington State before returning to Alberta in June. And, he opened for Brandi Carlile.
I sat down with Scott to talk about his new album, about life, and about touring. We chatted just before his show in Banff; remarkable in itself as the sound check had gone late and the show was starting soon. He was affable, articulate, and in the moment.
We started our conversation with a discussion about the serendipitous phone call from Terry Wickham, producer of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Terry was looking for a opening act for the sold-out Brandi Carlile concert at the 1,700 seat Winspear Centre in Edmonton. The Winspear show was between the Calgary and Banff dates of Scott's own tour, requiring an Edmonton-Calgary-Edmonton-Banff drive in two days. "I was nervous going into it", Scott admitted, "I'd never played to that many people or in that large a venue". He continued, "you just have to think of what you're there to do. I take a minute before each show to remind my self of why I'm playing, to clear out the mental chatter." An extra motivating factor, his mother. Scott thought, "my mom's out there in the crowd and I just want to do a good job for her".
It turns out that Scott is motivated by quite a number of things. It's not often that I interview a musician and have the American philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky quoted to me, but Scott is that rare individual. Scott's background, and degree, is Philosophy and English literature. He's done a few things in the past like teaching English in Taiwan - now he's a full-time musician. "Singing songs is the fun part", Scott said with a chuckle. His passion, though, is the words themselves. "I like words", he said. "What I do is mostly about the words". And, "The words need a place to land". It's true. Scott is eloquent and gifted. His albums reflect this passion. From his 1997 musical opus "lux-the plot thickens" through to the excellent 2009 album, "This One's On The House" and to the 2011 "Moonlit Rambles", we arrive at the current CD, "One More Time Around". This ten song CD is simply beautiful; beautiful to look at, lovely to read the stories behind the songs in the 32 page insert, and of course, beautiful to listen to. The lyric "Dust off your old dreams" on the song "New Grist" certainly spoke to me, as it and the rest of the songs will speak to you. This is one of the best albums of 2013 I've heard so far. It's available at scottcook.net.
The live show was excellent. Reflecting his emphasis on the words, Scott put together an acoustic trio. Melissa Walker, on upright bass, has played electric bass for a number of years for a variety of bands, and enjoys the sound and challenges of playing the upright bass. Her charming intensity and concentration as she sings with her eyes closed or watches her bass during the show is delightful to watch. Bramwell Park, he of the shy smile, banjo, guitar, and mandolin (who also play drums but not for this tour) brought some mouth harps along on the tour "just in case". So for those of you who hope to catch this show, stay tuned for that possibility. The trio sang that night both on and off mic; the off-mic portion "making it real" according to Scott. As an added homage to the 'stripped down' nature of the show, both Melissa and Bramwell played in bare feet! Very cool.
The tour which runs from May 5th to June 10th also reflects Scott's passion for the basics. From his buddies at Kergano's Food for the Soul in Moose Jaw, who have promised to cook for the band, to the Happy Nun in Forget Saskatchewan, to The Packing House in Spences Bridge and beyond, these are places "where I can just hang out and play music". An added bonus for folks in the American Pacific North-west, two shows at the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts. The show in Cortes Island is May 21st, at the Cortes Co-Op Cafe. For the rest of the shows, the tour info is available at http://www.scottcook.net/news.php
. Do not, repeat -- do not, miss this show if you can possibly make it. Seriously.