When Sam Cooper played a show in the 9th Ward @ Babeville at the end of last year, his bio on the venue’s event page caught my eye. Cooper’s music “is about love, sex, madness, seabirds, the internet, haircuts, bunny-rabbits, and self-help,” it read, in part. “(His) influences include Tom Robbins, Bob Dylan, Radiohead, Lucinda Williams, and Roland of Gilead.”
He had me at Tom Robbins, for that irreverent novelist’s work boasts a blend of tight craftsmanship and giddy surrealism that, for me, is the very definition of post-modern awesomeness. Cooper, who I met, briefly, while he was laying down tracks at GCR Studios for the freshly released “Careless Love” album, lives up to the references in that bio. He’s a deeply imaginative songwriter who, like Robbins, is rather fearless when it comes to following that imagination wherever it might lead.
I’d been invited to the studio that day in 2018 by Mike Gantzer, Aqueous guitarist and vocalist, who Cooper had sought out to produce his debut effort. Gantzer was enthralled with the kid’s passionate song-craft and had enlisted his bandmates as Cooper’s wrecking crew in the studio.
“This (producing another artist) was a somewhat new experience for me, but I absolutely loved it,” Gantzer said. “Sam was actually living in Thailand when we were recording, but he flew in for the sessions. The reason I took the gig as a producer for his project is because he wrote such well-thought- out, heartfelt, great songs, and he was passionate and serious about making a great record. He sent me ten demos that I fell in love with, and I could already hear in my head what those songs could be, if given the proper studio treatment.”
Cooper, whose father, Gubb Cooper, is a renowned area folk musician and member of the trio No Illusions, dropped me a line from Shanghai, where’s he’s currently living, to express his satisfaction with “Careless Love.” He described working with Gantzer, Aqueous and GCR Studios engineer Justin Rose as “a dream come true,” and listening, it’s easy to see why – the album presents itself as a beautifully arranged and gorgeously layered collection of ornate indie-rock and chamber-pop gems.
Musically, it was influenced strongly by indie, folk, pop, and a different side of rock than I’d ever worked on with Aqueous, but I think it's a really healthy thing as a musician or artist to step outside of your comfort zone and dive head first into something new, and this experience was definitely new for me.”
You can purchase the album now via Bandcamp, or listen on streaming services, Spotify included.
Singer Jessie Galante has released an image-rich video for her haunting take on the Moody Blues’ warhorse “Nights in White Satin,” which she recorded and filmed under the auspices of Chuck Anderson, of Black Rock’s Imagine Recording Studio.
Drummer Damone Jackson has been employing a Tuesday residency at Central Park Grill (2519 Main St.) as a testing ground for his new project, the Damone Jackson Outcome, which features some of the heaviest players in the history of Western New York music, in the form of guitarist George Puleo, bassist Jack Kulp, and saxophonist/guitarist Jason Moynihan. The band has been melting faces and taking names beginning at 7 p.m. every Tuesday at CPG.
Donny Frauenhofer brings his acoustic/electric trio – featuring James Benders and Joe Goretti - to Mr. Goodbar (1110 Elmwood Ave.) beginning at 10 p.m. every last Tuesday. Next show is May 28. Admission is free.