Eric Brace & Peter Cooper – You Don’t Have to Like Them Both – Red Beet Records

by | Mar 6, 2009 | Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews | 0 comments

Eric Brace & Peter Cooper – You Don’t Have to Like Them Both – Red Beet Records RBR CD009, 43:00 ****:

When I heard about Eric Brace and Peter Cooper collaborating on an album together, I thought we might in for a treat. I was proven right. Brace is the front man for the band Last Train Home and I have to say that for my money, this is one of the best alt-country, Americana bands on the scene today. Brace’s worn and soulful voice is perfectly matched by his songs, which take a bittersweet and melancholy look at life and relationships. Wonderful, heartfelt songs. As for Peter Cooper, I can’t think of a more witty and capable songwriter than him. Cooper can write and sing a song that is filled with a delicious sense of humor and intelligence. Each of them hangs out in Nashville, became friends, sang together, went on a tour together, and decided to record this CD. “You Don’t Have to Like Them Both” serves as a testament to good friendship and fine musicianship.

Stand-out tracks include “I Know a Bird,” Eric Brace’s own take on solitary journeys that are taken on voluntarily or are sometimes forced upon us. “Drinking From a Swimming Pool” is equally good, with Brace’s vocals perfectly capturing the wistful spirit of the song from Karl Straub. Peter Cooper contributes two of his own songs, “The Man Who Loves to Hate” and “Denali, Not McKinley.” These songs sum up his approach to songwriting. The first tells the story of the type of miserable person that we all prefer to not be around, but manages to make us feel sympathy for him nonetheless. Cooper can deal with serious topics with a sure hand. The second is an example of his humorous side, talking about one of Alaska’s most famous and controversial mountains. Perhaps the song that most sticks with me is “Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still,” a traditional 19th Century sea shanty that has lost none of its relevance concerning love and relationships. It also features three stand-out performances by some of the other musicians, Lloyd Green on pedal steel guitar, Jen Gunderson on accordion, and Tim O’Brien on octave mandolin. All are wonderful to listen to and are a huge part of what’s so good about this CD.  

Looking back at this recording, I think I might have preferred more original songs from these two men (because they’re both excellent songwriters), but considering what is on this CD, that is a minor criticism because they both tend to choose and sing songs that resonate with their own sensibilities. If you haven’t heard Eric Brace and Peter Cooper before, this is a perfect chance for you to do so now. You won’t regret it. They are a treat for the ears and the soul.

1. I Know a Bird
2. Omar’s Blues
3. Down to the Well
4. Drinking From a Swimming Pool
5. The Man Who Loves to Hate
6. The First in Line
7. Denali, Not McKinley
8. I Know Better Now
9. Lucky Bones
10. Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still
11. Just the Other Side of Nowhere
12. Yesterdays and Used to Be’s

– Hermon Joyner

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