Charlie Cope comes out swinging for the fences in his debut album, Americana And Whatever’s Left. Crafted with a clear vision that his lyrics and molasses-drenched drawl combine to tell a story, much like the knob on a woodgrain, Cope’s music is branded with a fine stain that features sweltering melodic guitar, a dab of bluegrass and even some southern soul. From the mood-setting “Intro” to the explicit, emotional “Let Me Go Easy” to the (also explicit), harmonica-heavy “Best Mistake I Ever Made” Cope succeeds at giving the listener a wide landscape to paint a bevy of emotions and reactions. Ambitious? Yes. Right at home and in the zone? You bet.
Cope ignites that wide-open spaces feeling in each of these tracks, almost as well as he fine tunes the intimacy of the lyrics and band tightness. The songs sound full, and highly arranged. So much so that when you’re not lingering on Cope’s Texan drawl, as a listener, you’re wondering if the music undercurrent is the leading the dance, or if Cope’s voice is the one taking the lead. “Intro” is a quick, but pivotal start to the album. The listener hears the heavy-footsteps walk onto a stage – the baritone, humble Cope simply says “this is for someone special” to a live crowd. Applause ensues and we’re off to the races. The songs on Americana And Whatever’s Left tell an instant story of an artist that has his heart on his sleeve and can add wordsmith to the feather in his cap.
“What About You” and “I Really Thought We’d Make It” contain high octane, melodic electric guitar arrangements. The backing music is threaded with the fiddle, and in the case of “I Really Thought We’d Make It” a presumably tightly-gripped mandolin peaks its way into the forefront. The click of the percussion comes alive in the more pop-rock sounding “Way It’s Supposed To Be”. At this point in the sonic journey, I’m left trying to compare Cope’s vocals to some sort of melted-into-one version of Tom Cochrane, Adam Duritz (County Crows), Pat Monahan (Train) or Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Underground). I’m failing miserably because I can’t quite capture the tenor in his voice that cracks and breaks with a mighty-fine warmth. Even when he’s dredging up the past (“Putting Myself Through”, “Hooked On Little Lies”, “Let Me Go Easy” and more) Cope conjures up a natural empathy and suspends the listener into disbelief that they are indeed sharing a beer with this fine young man at the corner establishment.
Cope has several standouts on this record – including “Skip Goodbye” and “Slipping Goodbye”. These tracks come a bit later in the album, but that’s not to say the entire journey isn’t worth the ride. Cope hits that magical spot in most of these songs that fuel the energy to put miles on the highway – there is a forward motion in all of these tunes that energizes the listener. Great hooks, almost cinematic guitar riffs and a modern troubadour – Americana And Whatever’s Left is a home run.