One of the brightest voices in bluegrass music in recent years has been Amanda Cook, who has continually offered fans a selection of well-written, thoughtful numbers that keep the radio waves hot. Now on her fourth full length project for Mountain Fever Records, Cook has proven herself to be an all-around talent who also anchors a tight band – most of whom has been with her for at least several years. Though the album is titled Changes, Cook has wisely stayed the path in contemporary bluegrass, and listeners are sure to find much to enjoy here.
The album’s opening song was also the lead single, released several months back, and finding a warm welcome from bluegrass radio. Another Highway This Time, penned by Thomm Jutz and Mark Fain, features a gently rolling melody and a message of hope amongst loss. Cook’s former bandmate Aaron “Frosty” Foster passed away last year, and the song serves as a nice tribute to his memory: “I’ll keep the memories, I’ll keep the songs. I’ll hear the laughter long after you’re gone…”
Two other songs here also come from Jutz: Things That Matter Most, written with Will Jones, and Ohio, with co-writers Kim Richey and Jefferson Ross. The former has a light, cheerful sound, with an optimistic outlook on life found in its lyrics. The latter, guided by Brady Wallen’s guitar and George Mason’s fiddle, has a much more melancholy feel and allows Cook to fill her voice with emotion.
Some fans may recognize Look Me Up by the Ocean Door, originally recorded by the Cox Family in the early ’90s. It’s a fun number that was ripe for introduction to a new generation, sung with conviction by Cook and featuring tasty banjo from Carolyne Van Lierop. Van Lierop also comes in strong on Carried Away, a Paula Breedlove and Brad Davis number about the rush of falling in love. Mandolin player Troy Boone also gets to show off a bit here.
Boone also contributes two original songs to the project. Back to My Home is a bouncy, traditional-leaning number that reminisces on days gone by. Though it’s a popular topic in bluegrass music, Cook’s powerful vocals help this song stand out. Walk the Way of Light is a fiery gospel number, highlighted by driving banjo and rushing fiddle.
There’s nary a misstep here, just ten solid tracks of good contemporary bluegrass. With radio solidly behind her, Changes may be what helps Cook earn plenty of attention come awards season.
For more information on Amanda Cook, visit her online. Her new album is available from a variety of online retailers.