Personnel: Amy Cook (vocals, guitar, piano); Dav¡d Garza (guitar, piano, harmonium); Chris Bruce (guitar).
Audio Mixer: Steve Mazur .
Recording information: Church House, Austin; Phantom Vox, LA.
Photographer: Alexandra Valenti.
With Summer Skin, Amy Cook continues the artistic growth she exhibited on 2010's Alejandro Escovedo-produced Let the Light In. Sheryl Crow and Lucinda Williams serve as her guideposts here, as Cook's songs exude both a twangy grittiness and a jangly gloss. The disc's lead-off track, "Waiting 4 the World 2 End," one of the album's high points, radiates with the rootsy hooks of a lost Sheryl Crow track, while "It's Gonna Rain" suggests Williams with less gravel. Cook presents her music with such sure-handed confidence, however, that thoughts of other artists soon recede. She takes particular control during the middle of the disc where she gracefully segues from the gently played title track to the sunny, top-down rocker "Getting to You," and then proceeds into twangy psychedelica (with the vocal help of Patty Griffin and Robert Plant) on "Airplane Driver." Griffin and Plant are just a few of the name musicians guesting on this album. Bassist Me'Shell Ndeg‚ocello, guitarist David Garza, and Jonathan Wilson (on drums here) form her core band. Craig Street, known for his inventive work with Cassandra Wilson and Norah Jones, serves as producer. He doesn't get overly clever with the arrangements and his rather straightforward approach nicely fits Cook's of-the-earth music. This sense of earthiness is present not only in the roots-based music but also in the lyrics, which are populated with images of nature. The sun, moon, stars, and water, for example, appear in the glorious, chimey guitar-pop of "Getting to You." This Ben Kweller co-write also touches on other frequent Summer Skin themes of travel and movement. On "Changing" (which suggests an Americanized Kasey Chambers), the Texas-based California native addresses these subjects too: "If it is time for changing/I don't mind/Honey, everything's changing all the time," she cheerily sings. Cook seems primed to make an upward change in her career. Although the pacing slows slightly with the album's final few tunes, Cook shines brightly on Summer Skin. ~ Michael Berick