We’ve got another Mike Cooper stunner for you. “Country Water,” the opening track on the Places I Know/The Machine Gun Co. 1971-72 double album, is, true to its name, a riverine country rocker complete with sawing fiddle solos and some heavy-duty piano banging. Cooper modeled each of the songs on the Places I Know half of his masterful double LP (released for the first time as such by us on June 17) on a different contemporary songwriter, such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, George Harrison, and even Elton John. Can you guess the inspiration for this one?
Stream it here, with both previous premiered Cooper cuts, via Dangerous Minds, or below, with the other advance singles (stay tuned for a full album stream next week).
The good people at Dangerous Minds have this to say about Cooper: “Gorgeous tune. Whimsical and lovely. Kinda sounds like one of his old buddy Keef’s numbers, but Cooper can sing a whole lot better…”
Many thanks to Uncut for the glowing press on both reissues, which rate 8/10 and 9/10, earning an Instant Karma! feature as well.
8/10. For those of us interested in how roots music can intersect with the avant-garde, the rediscovery of guitarist Mike Cooper is a fortuitous one. These exceptional LPs reflect the freedoms and open-minded spirit of the times. Trout Steel showcases singer-songwriterly craftsmanship in the Jansch mold, occasionally dissolving into free jazz drift (the 11-minute “I’ve Got Mine” is a fidgety, minimalist precursor to Wilco’s “Less Than You Think.”)
9/10. These exceptional LPs reflect the freedoms and open-minded spirit of the times. Places I Know is a good-natured retrenchment into Michael Chapman-ish folk rock, which also finds time for a spellbinding piano ballad, “Time to Time,” that would have done Bill Fay proud. The Machine Gun Co. summarizes the breadth of Cooper’s 1960s and 1970s explorations in potent small-group format. Stinging playing… One of Cooper’s landmark LPs, and a completely blitzing rapprochement of folk, blues, free improvisation, and avant-garde tactics.
For the lot of us uninitiated to Mike Cooper and his 1970 LP, Trout Steel, it’s a doozie. Earnestly reissued by Paradise of Bachelors and produced by Peter Eden (Donovan, Bill Fay), Trout Steel eloquently connects brit folk to free jazz with ease and originality. An exploratory work that makes a lasting impact on the folk genre… and puts Cooper in a world all his own. One can’t help but feel that there are many artists (both past and present) who owe a debt to Mike Cooper – whether they know it or not.