|Limoncello Blues, Eddy Ray Cooper
Reviewed by Buster Fayte
Eddy Ray Cooper lives in France. Eddy Ray sings with a French accent. Heck, sometimes Eddy Ray even sings in French. French rockabilly—what a concept! So, can a heavily accented vocalist deliver convincing rockabilly? Oh yes he can! And not just rockabilly, but on this record you’ll hear honky tonk, western swing, and a touch of cajun zydeco too. And it’s just such an easy-going pleasant thing to listen to.
This isn’t in-your-face, all-out rockabilly (which, of course I also love)—it has a much more laidback attitude. The second song on the CD, “Mediterranean Man,” sums it up beautifully: “I love my laidback lifestyle, workin’ sometimes, havin’ fun and havin’ good times.” The CD’s title cut offers, “After lazy lunch beside lemon tree, I take a little nap and I feel free. The birds are singing in the sky, when I open up my eyes.” Clearly Cooper is proud of his heritage and believes that there’s no reason that he can’t work that heritage into the country and rockabilly styles that he also clearly loves. And he’s so right!
For an American used to American rockabilly and foreign rockabilly that tries to sound American, this record presents a bit of cognitive dissonance. Eddy Ray doesn’t sound American at all. He doesn’t even try to. But man, the music is beautifully authentic. Cooper is backed by musicians who are seriously steeped in classic American country and rockabilly musical forms. Lionel Wendling particularly nails it on pedal steel guitar. He’s got a wonderful knack of laying down licks that evoke some of the best steel guitar moments of Don Helms who as much as anyone makes the great Hank Williams’ recordings so distinctive. And then, just as you start to think you know the lick, he twists it into something completely original and creative.
Cooper shares guitar duties with Françios Calais and both of them do a great job with rockabilly and honky tonk styles. Stand-up bass duties are shared between Daniel Marsala and David Giacobetti and drums are covered by Olivier Ferrarin and Vincent Dompe. All of these guys play with wonderful feel and complete authenticity. Eddy Ray adds lead and backup vocals with additional backup vocals by Vinidi.
To try and get a handle on this record, take Cooper’s French accent, his easy-go-lucky, yet serious approach to the music, and a stable of fine musicians. Then, picture musical accompaniment that sounds as authentically American as anything ever to come out of Memphis or Nashville. Now wrap that around French/Italian themes (Cooper spent much of his youth in Italy too) as in the songs “Top Class French Town,” “Mediterranean Man,” and the title cut, “Limoncello Blues.”
Sounds kind of crazy, doesn’t it? Yet something about this combination brought a smile instantly to my face upon the first notes of the opening song, “Top Class French Town,” and the smile lingered long after the CD’s closer, “Rockin’ Babe,” ended.
Eddy Ray wrote all of the songs on the record except “I still Got the Blues” which was written by Dompe. As a linguistically limited American who can barely speak English, I’m continually impressed with the multilinguistic abilities of Europeans and other people around the world, but I can understand it. However, somebody who writes great lyrics in something other than his native language is beyond anything I can fathom. Occasionally, Eddy Ray turns a phrase that betrays his non-native English, but these occasions turn into some of the most charming moments on the record. And most of the time if you were hearing an American accent singing these songs you’d have no idea that they were written by a native French speaker. Those of you who are adept in multiple languages maybe can’t understand it, but I’m totally bowled over by that.
Eddy Ray has been around. This is his sixth CD and he’s also released a live DVD set. So I’m not alone in singing Cooper’s praises. I don’t know if Eddy Ray ever makes it to the USA, but he plays many shows around Europe and has also performed in Quebec, Canada.
If you ever get a chance to catch Eddy Ray and the band live, I’d suggest you jump on it. I’m willing to bet that they put on a great live show. But if you can’t see him play live, grab Limoncello Blues and slap it into your CD player. I’d also be willing to bet that you, like me, won’t be able to listen to this CD without smiling!
Also read this review: I Save My Soul by Eddy Ray Cooper
Reviewed by Buster Fayte, 2012