I consider myself an Alabama fan, so I was pretty excited when a press release from Absolute Publicity arrived in my mailbox, describing a new album recently released by artist Jeff Cook, a founding member of Alabama. As a youngster, I have distinct memories of Alabama songs (“Thistlehair the Christmas Bear”), blasting through the speakers that were hooked up to the record player at our farmhouse during Christmastime or housecleaning time. My mom loved Alabama, and still does to this day. They were an iconic country music band that helped diversify the genre until their farewell tour in 2003.
My own Alabama favorites include “Dixieland Delight,” “Mountain Music” and “Song of the South.” But, when the release arrived, I was unfamiliar with Jeff Cook and his contributions to a group that I’ve known and liked since childhood. On an Alabama website, I read that Cook was the lead guitarist and fiddler for the group. I was excited, since through the years I’ve been known to dance, and occasionally stomp, to the sound of that fiddle.
But you must remember when listening to Ashes Won’t Burn by Jeff Cook and the Allstar Goodtime Band, this isn’t Alabama, and you can’t judge it as such. It is more electric guitar and less fiddle, which to me was what Alabama was about.
Most of the songs, I believe all except “Mist of Desire” and “Kissing a Fool,” performed by Cook, are cover songs. I really enjoyed Cook’s cover of “I Feel Fine” (John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the Beatles). Other notable covers are Ronnie Farmer’s rendition of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (Bob Dylan), R.K. Brown’s interesting cover of “Brick House” (The Commodores) and Link Detten’s version of “All Right Now” (originally performed by Andy Fraser and Paul Rodgers, and later adopted by Queen). Most entertaining to me was Cook’s performance of “Monkey Around” (Delbert McClinton, Gary Nicholson and Benmont Tench III).
I say “Brick House” was interesting because, the same as the majority of people who seek out this album because of Cook, I think Alabama and I think country music. So I think of Cook as a country musician and turned this album on assuming I was in for a lot of twang and a lot of fiddle. But just like Alabama, which constantly varied their approach and attracted fans from different ethnic backgrounds and musical tastes, Cook proves his expansive and diverse talent as a musician. Just don’t buy Ashes Won’t Burn because you want a second-coming of Alabama.
I’ll post an interview with Cook in the coming days.
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+.