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Reviews: Peter Cooper, The Lloyd Green Album; Eric Brace & Peter Cooper, Master Sessions

Peter Cooper
The Lloyd Green Album
[Red Beet Records (2010)]

Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
Master Sessions
[Red Beet Records (2010)]

It’d be hard to argue with Peter Cooper‘s taste in steel guitarists, as evidenced by this dozen-track affair of originals and covers featuring legendary steel guitarist Lloyd Green. Though Green played on so many recordings (an estimated 30,000) throughout the 60s and 70s, don’t expect a stone country, hard-edged approach here. Instead it’s an unusual pairing. Cooper’s introspective delivery and mid-tempo story songs (“Elmer the Dancer”) balance sincere delivery and smart lyrics (‘There’s gonna be some wreckage where your dreams and your habits collide”) with Green’s masterful swirls, slides, and chimes. Though the steel guitarist shades the canvas well, Cooper’s material warms up slowly to the ear and can’t possibly be appreciated with just a few cursory listens. But given the strength of various songs like “What Dub Does,” a yarn about a Nashville hipster, and the uptempo rocker “Champion of the World,” the austere setting lets the talents of both Cooper and Green radiate amply.

Master Sessions extends the Lloyd Green concept as Green and Seldom Scene dobroist Mike Auldridge join Cooper and Eric Brace for a set of originals with a few covers sprinkled in. Interestingly, the fact that Green and Auldridge are featured here together is not without historical significance. Though they collaborated on Auldridge’s “Lloyd’s of Nashville” in 1976, they never did on a full-length album—until now. There’s a strong 1970s laid-back California country rock vibe here, especially with Herb Pedersen’s classic “Wait a Minute” kicking off the proceedings. A few songs, like “Big Steve,” a tribute to Nashville’s beloved doorman, are easily accessible while others, such as “Missoula Tonight,” draw the listener into the story. Like The Lloyd Green Album, there’s a Tom T. Hall cover, “I Flew Over Our House Last Night,” here as well, serving as a reminder how under-appreciated Hall’s songwriting skills have been in the modern era. Brace and Cooper balance well together, unpretentiously swapping and sharing vocals throughout the proceedings. Similarly, Green and Auldridge do a beautiful job in balancing their leads, never getting in the way of one another but always managing to sign their individual signature on the arrangement. Finally, on John Hartford’s “I Wish We Had Our Time Again,” they get their chance to kick it up and romp hard following the last verse. They do it so well, in fact, that one has to wonder what would this have been like with a spiffy instrumental or two?

—Dan Willging (Denver, CO)

[Copyeditor’s note: I met Lloyd Green in Texas when he was playing at a restaurant with Terri Hendrix. It was a $10 show and I got in for free on the guest list for the opening band. I had very little idea who he was and just commented how glad I was to hear someone play something closer to rock and roll on the steel guitar instead of “just country.” He was very down-to-earth and chatted for a bit about Paul Franklin. -Jon]

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