What all is new on this album?
“Mist of Desire,” “Wonderful Waste of Time” and “If I Could Just See You Now,” I don’t know if you can really call them remakes or not because it’s a different performance and we re-recorded them but those three songs were Alabama songs. They are there because I had something to do with writing. “Kissing a Fool,” I’m part writer on, that’s a new song … “A Million Times Today” I’m a writer on … a believe I counted up there are five remakes on there, and I don’t count the ones that I re-sang, remakes to me, but that’s perception I guess.
I’m calling you from the Tennessee River, I’ve been out here fishing.
“If I Could Just See You Now,” that’s not new, that was on an Alabama album. But it didn’t get a lot of recognition so for all intents and purposes, it’s new. That, “Mist of Desire” and “Wonderful Waste of Time,” they were all about the same time (during the Alabama days).
How many albums is this for you since Alabama?
This is actually about the fifth one. If you go to my website (www.JeffCook-AGB.com), click on store and click on music you can see what’s there (Jeff Cook & the Allstar Goodtime Band list of albums). The first one, Just Pickin’, is an instrumental thing. It’s just a collection of old greasy stuff I used to listen to when I was learning to play.
When you set out to make this album, Ashes Won’t Burn, obviously you wanted to make something the people, your fans, would enjoy, but since you’ve already had a successful career with Alabama, does the focus change from making a successful album to something more personal – something more fulfilling to you as an artist?
I think it can be both. I know, as you mention, that this group was put together to target the demographics of casinos, fairs and festival-type stuff. But you know, a hit record would be great, but I’m more into pleasing the fans. And it seems to be a big thing in the industry to say, “Oh, well that’s a remake,” but I might point out that Alabama had a number one with a remake, “Take Me Down,” which was done by Exile originally. A lot of people kind of forget that stuff.
My philosophy is a good song is a good song is a good song, no matter when it was written.
With some of the songs, like “Brick House,” it seems like an odd choice for a country album. What made you decide on that song?
When we first started talking about that, the Commodores were going to be on it with us, and we just ran up against some time constraints and we just had to put it off to another song, another time (for them to be on the album).
Writing process – do you have a special place you go or certain circumstances that inspire you?
You know, I’m like a lot of people. Sometimes I wake up with a line on the mind, or somebody will say something and I’ll say, “Hey, that could be a song.” Or sometimes I’ll come up with a piece of music … there’s no cut and dry pattern for me.
Where did you come up with the name Ashes Won’t Burn?
That song was written by a guy named Bert Colwell, from Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, and that was sent to us back in the Alabama days, and it just kept getting pushed back to the back burner, and we never did do anything with it. I’m kind of glad it happened that way because it gave me some really good material for this CD.
What’s your favorite song?
You know, I tried to pick everything that I liked. I probably wouldn’t record anything I didn’t like, not like Alabama. I think the “I Feel Fine,” by the Beetles, that’s a classic guitar lick, it’s 44 years old, still a good one.
If you notice it, I put a little tinge of banjo in there. Where the lead guitar comes in, the lead break, that’s done on a six-string, a twelve-string, a baritone guitar and a banjo, all simultaneously. At the very end of it, there’s a tinge of banjo back in there if you listen to it.
What does putting out an album like this do for you that was missing in Alabama? How is it different?
I’m in complete control. It was interesting, I ran into one of the engineers who worked on the early Alabama stuff, and I played it for him and his terms were, “This is refreshing.” It was an interesting word, and I think I’ll use it.
It’s not the same pickers. Just because you’re in a band on the road don’t mean you get to work in the studio, they have studio pickers. And a lot of the same people, a lot of the same style, play a lot of the different records out there.
It seems to me, you know with country radio, it sounds the same, and I don’t know if it’s the compression they use in recording or because it’s the same players, a lot of the same players, but it sounds the same.
Are you glad it ended with Alabama when it did?
I think it was 2004.Yes. I think it was time for a change, a break, or whatever.
Are you touring for this album?
Oh yeah, we’ve been out there on the road. We’ve played at the Hard Rock, a lot of shows in Florida, some Texas stuff, even in Minnesota a time or two.
Do you have a favorite city or venue?
Just as long as they have a big building and a lot of people, that’s all I need.
Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on Google+.