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Sittin' On Top of the World

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Album Review

A singer doesn't really need a long résumé if he's performed in Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys for 37 years. Standing this close to bluegrass royalty (an oxymoron if there ever was one) says all that needs to be said: Jack Cooke is the real deal. Like Stanley, Cooke loves the old-time, traditional sound, filled with lots of rough edges that create something one might refer to as mountain soul. Cooke's rough-hewn vocals, backed by an impressive who's who of bluegrass notables, take the listener back to the '40s and '50s when the genre was dominated by traditional singers like Jim & Jesse and Flatt & Scruggs. Much of the material likewise offers a glance toward yesterday, with well-loved songs like "North to Alaska," "Dark Hollow," and "Long Black Veil." Cooke picks at least one song that, lyrically, may produce unintended chuckles. It's difficult for anyone, no matter how much hurt he puts into his vocal, to make a line like "that's how the cookie crumbles" (from Jim Lauderdale's song of the same name) seem tenderhearted. There are also two bonus tracks from 1963, which help push the disc to an acceptable album length (around 38 minutes). For folks sick to death of smooth-toned bluegrass crooners, Cooke serves as a staunch defender of non-pretentious, down-to-earth bluegrass. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Biography

Genre: Country

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

A teenage Jack Cooke told his sister "I'm never going to work. I'm going to let this guitar do it for me." In hindsight, it may seem prophetic and not teenage folly, but it was actually the bass that turned the Virginia native into one of bluegrass' most revered musicians. Cooke got his start in 1955 when he backed Ralph and Carter Stanley in the Stanley Brothers' backup band, the Clinch Mountain Boys. A year later he began a four-year stint in Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys, this time doing double...
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Sittin' On Top of the World, Jack Cooke
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