Having a teenage daughter who is a wonderful singer and an aspiring songwriter means that, if you are open to it, you can discover a lot of great music you might not have discovered on your own. One of those delightful discoveries I have made by way of my teenage daughter is the music of Citizen Cope, whose sounds I have taken to like a duck to water.
According to his website, Cope is beloved by fans of all ages, and if this mother/daughter duo is an example, then the writer is right on.
Something about the sultry, gravelly voice appeals to me and after gathering his older music on my iPod, I was unhappy to find that he seemed to have stopped making music (his last album, Every Waking Moment, came out in 2006) only to be thrilled to find that Cope (aka Clarence Greenwood) has just produced a new album on his own label, Rainwater Recordings. Citizen Cope (both the man and his band) will also be touring around the country February through April, usually in small, intimate venues, which is the best way to hear his music and become a fan, if you aren’t already one. Cope did a solo acoustic tour in 2008 but for this year’s tour he will be back with his full band.
Citizen Cope’s fifth released CD entitled The Rainwater LP is his first recording in nearly four years, and is, like his last two CDs, produced by Greenwood himself. This is his first attempt on his own label after being signed and dropped by Capitol Records in the late '90s before he could even complete an album, and then recording his first album with DreamWorks in 2002 and then moving to Arista and RCA, neither of which proved successful pairings for Cope, whose work is quirky and admittedly different. But as a huge and loyal fan base attests to, several of his concerts in this year’s tour are already sold out and the fans like his live shows at least as much as repeated playing of his albums, the new one included.
Count me among them. Although The Rainwater LP does not have a song of the stunning mournfulness of "Sideways" (which was featured in the acclaimed film Ghost Town) nor the initial catchiness of some of this other tunes — “The Son’s Gonna Rise,” in which Santana plays guitar (and which was featured in a Pontiac commercial), may be his most well known — The Rainwater LP is a welcome addition to Cope’s oeuvre. Particularly captivating are “Keep Askin’” which sounds like a familiar, warm welcome home from Cope to his listeners, and “I Could Explain Why.” Cope can also be very political in his music and “The Newspaper” is a good example of a song that is tough but doesn’t try to hit you over the head.
“Lifeline,” another song on the CD, has the line “If you come looking for a hard time, hard times ain’t hard to find,” which seems to sum up both Cope’s poison and its antidote. Sad, touching, unconventional, and eminently listenable, all of Cope’s music, especially the best of it, speaks to alienation, loss, love, and ultimately hope. And one of the CD's catchiest tunes, “Healing Hands,” is upbeat and jazzy with the words “You gave me daylight, you gave me sunlight” repeated several times.
The CD consists of eight new songs and second acoustic versions of “Lifeline” and "Keep Askin'" for a total of 10 tracks.
Cope started in the music business by donating songs to compilations by other artists, and he appeared in the 1990s on albums by rapper Basehead. His music has also been featured in a number of television series and films, including One Tree Hill, Scrubs, Criminal Minds, and Fracture, among many others. In a 2002 article The Washington Post (Greenwood was born in Memphis but lives in D.C.) called him “the city’s most soulful export since Marvin Gaye.”
With his combination of jazzy, bluesy guitar, rough lyrics with a hip hop tang, and mournful crooning, Cope is an unconventional musical voice in today’s landscape but one most definitely worth exploring.
Check out his official website for a free download.