Dana Cooper
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Dana Cooper

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Band Americana Singer/Songwriter

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September 27, 2005
“Made of Mud” is made of melodies — the instantly engaging kind difficult to find on the charts today. Singer-songwriter Dana Cooper’s subjects range from love and death to religion and politics, with a topical undercurrent throughout, and he makes everything hummable.
Part of Cooper’s secret is his relaxed, soft-focus voice. Reminiscent of Jules Shear, it coaxes fresh melodic charms from even Woody Guthrie’s venerable “Pretty Boy Floyd.” Other highlights include three beautiful ballads and the Byrdsian rocker “Sit This One Out,” a plea for peace and quiet. The understated, guitar-based arrangements are nicely embellished with the occasional lap steel, harmonica or flugelhorn.
Cooper began making records more than 30 years ago, and he has clearly mastered the craft. - MSNBC — Steven Wine


This veteran song poet is a self-contained road warrior--a man of many tunes and tunings, and a right hand few guitarists will ever know. Sharp eyes in the head on his shoulders, a droll sense of humor and the weathered heart of a person who's spent a lot of his life on the road alone. His voice speaks to your center with its pure clarity, but then it breaks and soars like a bird that flies into a strong wind. His music is vital, and live you see him channel all his energy into the song. The songs are smart, but they come from his heart.
Although he's got a full band approach to acoustic guitar, he's known often to play in duo with Shake Russell who co-wrote the CD opener, "Step into the Light." At least on the last two records he's also found a great partner in multi-instrumentalist producer Richard McLaurin. (See our review of Harry Truman Built a Road.) Speaking of partners, Linda Marks did her usual elevated job on the CD design, and also co-wrote "Empty Glass." The only other co-write is with songsmith Michael Lille, the beautiful closer, "World of Hurt." Except for an original take on Woody Guthrie's "Pretty Boy Floyd," Dana wrote the rest of the songs alone. He writes life songs more than love songs, but "Bird on the Wing" is a lovely exception.
Unless it's his own choice, I couldn't tell you why this incredible singer songwriter is not being pushed by one of several likely labels. He tours like hell, and is one of the most consistent writers and performers genre wide. He throws down every night. Even when it's in a rack, he can get hellacious things out of a harmonica, and there are some great harp tracks on this disc.
Several songs obliquely reference the post 9/11 world we're living in, but not from a soapbox. He and Michael Lille plaintively paint the story of a soldier who
remembers his father
how he fought for peace on earth
just to live
in a world of hurt
Dana Cooper is a rare example of the real thing that's touring the country on a regular basis. Twenty-somethings who are lightweight versions of Van Morrison or James Taylor or the Nick Drake retreads, they're fine. But see Dana Cooper when he comes to your town. In the meantime, check our man out on the Listen page, and pick up a copy of Made of Mud. - Pure Music - Frank Goodman


Dana Cooper has been a working singer and songwriter for nearly 35 years. Let that soak in a minute, especially since there's a pretty fair chance you don't own any of his consistently fine albums.
For more than three decades, Cooper has maintained a presence on the music scene without a hit record. He had his chances, especially when Elektra Records signed him in 1973, but what's more impressive is his tenacity and perspective.
"When I was 20 years old and signed to Elektra Records, I thought, 'This is it. By the time I'm 21, I'll be like Jackson Browne or Joni Mitchell or something.'
"For a while I tried to be commercially successful … but then I realized that I was doing what I loved doing, and if I could do it in any way, on my own terms, and still make a living at it, then that was a huge success.
"It's not a cop-out. It's reality. Most people can't do that."
A Missouri native, Cooper has pursued the muse in Los Angeles; Austin, Texas; and, most recently, Nashville. He's a favorite in Europe, where records such as his latest, "Made of Mud," are highly regarded.
"I've kind of had a checkered career," he said. "I've done a lot of different things, solo stuff, band things. It doesn't seem like a direct path to where I am now, but when I think about it I guess I've kind of come back full circle to what I started doing.
"My mainstay is just getting in my Toyota and going out there and singing my songs for people. It's a funny life, but it's a good one, you know?"
One of Cooper's biggest fans is Louisville's danny flanigan, who is bringing Cooper to town Thursday for his monthly Listening Room concert series at The Rudyard Kipling, 422 W. Oak St. Showtime is 7 p.m., it's non-smoking, and all proceeds from the $5 cover go to Cooper.
jpuckett@courier-journal.com
- The Courier-Journal - Jeffrey Lee Puckett


Dana Cooper is a skilled singer/songwriter who has put together one of the best cd's of 2005. Made of Mud has not one bad song on the entire cd and it is lyrically and musically a classic cd! If your taste in music includes Americana and Folk Rock then you must purchase this cd. Hearing is believing. Check him out on Pirate Radio and hear for yourself what a great and talented artist that Dana Cooper truly is. - Preying Lizard Indie Rock Music Ezine


(King Easy 0501 As broadcast on WVIA-FM 1/11/2006)
The past few years have seen the emergence of a significant number of worthy singer-songwriters. But it's also notable how many long-time veterans remain active on the scene. There are, of course, those who have been well-known since the 1960s, like Stephen Stills, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, and Joan Baez, who have all released new CDs in the past few months. But there are also many long-time artists who do not have quite the visibility of some of the better-known names, but who still manage to maintain a musical career and continue to create high-quality work.
This week, we have a fine example, Dana Cooper, whose new CD is called Made of Mud. With a more than 30-year recording career, Dana Cooper began performing in clubs in Kansas City when he was sixteen. Though he received a college art scholarship, he instead decided to go out on the road performing, toured the country, and eventually settled in Los Angeles, where he was signed to Elektra Records. He released his debut solo album in 1973. Cooper later formed a musical partnership with Shake Russell, and moved to Texas. Cooper and Russell recorded five albums together, and gained a fair amount of popularity, being signed to MCA Records and appearing on Public Television's Austin City Limits. Though Cooper and Russell still collaborate, Cooper has been working as a solo since the 1980s, and has been living in Nashville since 1978, periodically releasing independent CDs which attracted critical accolades and got him nominated for the Nashville Music Awards among others.
Cooper's last CD, Harry Truman Built a Road was released in 2002. Now Cooper is out with a particularly fine new release in Made of Mud. As usual, Cooper's songs are literate and lyrically interesting, and the musical backing is very tasteful. Cooper himself comes across as a personable performer with an attractive voice. He is joined by producer and multi-instrumentalist Richard McLaurin, who also did similar duties on Cooper's last CD. Otherwise, it's a small cast of supporting musicians, including bassist Dave Jacques, drummer Paul Griffin and keyboard man Eric Fritsch among others. Cooper himself plays some bluesy harmonica, in addition to his acoustic guitar and vocals.
There is a theme that ties much of the CD together, including its title piece, the idea that in an increasingly divided country and world, there are some things that people do have in common. Cooper is quoted as saying "Whether you are Howard Hughes or the guy in the gutter, we're all pretty much the same person."
The songs also span a long period, including one of the earliest that Cooper and Shake Russell wrote together. There is also a cover of Woody Guthrie's Pretty Boy Floyd, which Cooper thought would be relevant in the current environment. A fair number of the songs are philosophical in their outlook, with one notably political song, and at the other end of the spectrum are love songs.
Opening is Step into the Light, the old composition from close to 30 years ago written with Shake Russell. It was penned during the Vietnam era, and it has relevance today. Musically, it's a pleasing blend of acoustic instrumentation and roots rock. <<>>
With this album having been recorded in Nashville, there are some hints of country among its tracks, understated though they may be. Bird on the Wing is excellent piece of writing that addresses the album's theme of the commonalty of people. It tells the story of a pair of lovers from very different social classes. <<>>
Probably the most direct political commentary comes on the song Sit This One Out which takes aim presumably at wealthy televangelists. The musical setting is an infectious rock groove that in a way, takes a little of the edge off the lyrics. <<>>
One of the more interesting pieces from both a musical and lyrical standpoint is Comic Tragedy. It's not often that singer-songwriters write in a 5-beat rhythm, while the words seem a kind of stream of consciousness exposition. Cooper plays some harmonica on the track as well. <<>>
Cooper's version of Woody Guthrie's Pretty Boy Floyd is nicely done. Cooper plays it rather straight with the arrangement, with his acoustic rhythm guitar featured prominently. Cooper feels the story is ripe to re-tell given the environment of corporate scandals and general plutocracy. <<>>
The title track, Made of Mud, is also one of the CD's highlights. The roots-rock style song speaks to Cooper's theme of the album, putting into a rock setting a paraphrase of a biblical notion. <<>>
That is followed by two songs that are lyrical opposites. Death is a Door is a almost spooky-sounding piece that deals with the subject stated in its title. <<>>
Contrasting to that is Empty Glass. The song has a kind of swamp rock sound whose lyrics essentially say, after the previous tune, "I'm not going anywhere soon."
Dana Cooper's new CD Made of Mud is a fine album by a veteran si - The Graham Weekly Album Review by George Graham


Discography

Albums:

Made of Mud (2005)
Harry Truman Built a Road (2001)
Miracle Mile (1997)
Roughly Speaking (1993)
Stone By Stone (1992)
Complicated Stuff (1988)

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Bio

Singer/songwriter Dana Cooper has wowed audiences throughout the U.S. and Europe recently with tunes from his newest album, Made of Mud on King Easy Records. Cooper's ingenious guitar work and gutsy harmonica continue to augment his passionate voice and insightful lyrics. This collection of eleven songs produced by Richard McLaurin features acclaimed Nashville talents Dave Jacques, Paul Griffith, Eric Fritsch, Steve Hermann and Vickie Hampton.

Out of the heartland of America, stomping grounds of Truman and Twain, Cooper was playing his music in Kansas City clubs by the age of 16. Leaving behind a college art scholarship Dana toured the country and landed in Los Angeles. In 1973, Elektra Records released his self-titled debut solo album featuring luminary players Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar and Jim Horn. Cooper later moved to Texas to join forces with long- time friend Shake Russell. Their collaborations produced five highly successful folk-rock albums, including one on MCA in 1981. The two became one of the most popular acts throughout Texas and the Southwest appearing together on Austin City Limits. Dana and Shake continue recording and performing together to this day.

Over the years Dana has released many independent solo albums including the critically acclaimed Miracle Mile on Compass Records. This album was nominated for a Nashville Music Award as "Best Pop Album" and was picked by Performing Songwriter Magazine as one of the top twelve DIY recordings for the year. Cooper's Harry Truman Built a Road, was named one of the best records of 2002 by The Tennessean in Nashville and was again chosen as one of the top twelve DIY recordings for that year.

Recent tours of Denmark, Ireland, Sweden and Germany have gained Cooper exuberant support from audiences and radio as well as collaborations and friendships with many songwriters in these countries.

Cooper has been named Best Songwriter in Houston, was nominated Best Male Vocalist by the Kerrville Music Foundation and nominated for their Hall of Fame. His songs have been recorded by top-notch artists Maura O'Connell, Jonell Mosser, Susan Werner, Jen Cohen, Christine Albert, Trout Fishing in America, Pierce Pettis, Johnsmith and Shake Russell.