We’re delighted and flattered by all your love and support of our recent Mike Cooper and Lavender Country reissues, records we’ve always believed were masterpieces deserving of wider recognition, but which we never dreamed would earn all this acclaim. It’s incredibly gratifying for us, and more importantly, for our friends and teachers, Mike Cooper and Patrick Haggerty of Lavender Country.
Many thanks to Pitchfork and Jayson Greene for their deep, perceptive reviews of our Mike Cooper reissues, Trout Steel and Places I Know/The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper, which earned 8.6 and 8.3 ratings, respectively, as well as Best New Reissue designations. Read the reviews here.
8.6/8.3: Best New Reissues. The albums mostly move in long, heaving sighs—long, free-flowing sections where Cooper plays in open tunings and clusters of instruments take their turns speaking to each other around him… Sung verse[s] alternate with extended jamming like honey running from a spoon. [His] bands could do anything and go anywhere while preserving the fluid, good-natured energy of Cooper’s music. Trout Steel has the gracefully exhaled quality of a master statement. In a way, he’s like Van Dyke Parks; equally in love with traditions and in thrall to eccentricity, someone whose solo records build an alternate set of rules that their maker has no intention of spelling out for you.
– Jayson Greene, Pitchfork
Grayson Currin wrote this detailed, thoughtful overview of Cooper for the Independent Weekly, including reflections on Durham and Don Quixote.
Essential reissues. Taken together, Trout Steel, Places I Know and The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper provide a suggestive map of the post-modern eclecticism that’s blossomed in an age where the extremes of the world’s collected music can be accessed with the few taps of a button. Saxophones shriek beneath simple chords. Would-be ballads veer suddenly through psychedelic spirals. In retrospect, Cooper’s decisions feel suspiciously prophetic, like a long-range weathervane more interested in the future than present atmospheric conditions. 40 years later, Cooper’s work remains germane, even prescient.
– Grayson Currin, Independent Weekly
Aquarium Drunkard conducted this excellent long interview with Mike Cooper, in which he reveals secrets, answers riddles, and prognosticates.
The work of a unique artist, one whose songcraft is always bolstered by relentless experimentation.
– Aquarium Drunkard
Remarkable, groundbreaking albums that fuse folk, blues, psych, and avant-garde free jazz. Each of these records presents Cooper’s career in microcosm, shifting fluidly from country blues to psych rock to free improvisation and jazz idioms.
– Clinton Krute, BOMB
Matthew Fiander at PopMatters filed these fine reviews of the records, digging into a close reading.
Trout Steel and Places I Know / The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper are both excellent records, but they also tell a vital story about an important musician in modern music. These two albums capture Cooper at a pinnacle, where his newly honed songcraft and his knack for complicated sound and space met, clashed, and also combined in exciting and brilliant ways. These are reissues, but they may as well be new albums. They are as fresh as the latter and as lasting as the best of the former. By turns challenging and beautiful, earthen and ethereal.
– Matthew Fiander, PopMatters
The Horn has the following to say in their review:
Hauntingly beautiful. His clear yet weary voice is the kind that’s made for storytelling, and Cooper sure tells some fascinating narratives across these records. Not only are his songs an evolved collection of should-be classics, but they’re also a piece of history that’s longing to be uncovered.
– Maeri Ferguson, The Horn
And more critical accolades from Folk Radio UK…
You only need to listen to these three albums to appreciate how far ahead of the game he was.
– Folk Radio UK
Mike Cooper guested on Rai Radio 3 in Italy recently to discuss the albums and his influences, choosing tunes that inspired him in those heady years. Mike proves to be a great selector, and you can hear him speak Italian too!
The Lavender Country journey continues with some great features including these lovely pieces from The Chicago Reader, The Stranger, and the Erie Reader. (The Stranger interview in particular makes us blush–Patrick, we love you too!) There’s also this keen mention of Lavender Country’s “homo-honky-tonk utopia” in this Pitchfork review of the queer glam legend Jobriath.
Also, some of you may have heard Patrick Haggerty on StoryCorps this morning on NPR. If you missed him telling his moving story about his encounter with his dairy farmer dad after a childhood drag performance, the segment is archived here. We challenge you to get through it without tearing up.