Gay Austinite Amy Cook drops heartfelt thrills on ‘Summer Skin’
RICH LOPEZ | Contributing Writer
As the music capital of Texas, we’ve come to expect good stuff to come out of Austin. So when even that city can surprise us with stellar, that’s saying something. And while Amy Cook is technically from California, she’s done the Austin music thing for the past eight years, releasing albums and making friends. But even with help from the likes of Robert Plant and Meshell N’degeocello on her newest album Summer Skin, the indie lesbian never gets lost in their shadow and instead shines brightly on 11 tracks.
Skin begins with the lush “Waiting 4 the World 2 End” opening the album with a peppy beat and honest grit. Cook mixes Britpop and Lilith Fair earnestness into this very now track. There is a relative simplicity to her approach with voice and instrumentation. There aren’t frills here but that’s not to say there isn’t a wealth of complexity involved. “Waiting” takes on the responsibility to say Skin has much to say — and subsequent songs don’t let down.
She refrains from drama queen flair on “Sun Setting Backwards,” a track that details the deterioration of a relationship. The melody is effective, though without the hardness of lesbian contemporaries Brandi Carlile or Melissa Etheridge. Cook plays more in the key of Jason Mraz, exuding patience and delicacy. When she croons that everything is upside down, there’s pain that isn’t immediately evident, but buried down and can only escape through her singing.
Pardon another lesbian reference, but “It’s Gonna Rain” recalls that languid feeling of k.d. lang’s Ingénue. It’s light but the quiet harmonies drip when Robert Plant throws in his backing track adding a wonderful weight to the track.
Summer Skin’s strength is its consistency. Listening to the album feels like finding a diary you can’t help but read (or in this case, listen to). It’s a thrill ride because of it.
Cook displays humor throughout. She gives a great opener on “Hello Bunny,” telling the character to run for your life, it’s a cruel world / better get you some money and a bowie knife if you can. The song holds up to that quirky tone with tickling guitars. Cook handles it well with both a wink and complete devotion to the track.
The album winds down with a relaxed pace. On the dreamy notes of “Levee” and “When I Wake Up,” her initial grit is smoothed out; she may even lose some listeners as Skin fades into a lull but hardly fades away. You can almost miss her clever lyrics, but Cook makes that OK. The spirit of Summer Skin doesn’t need to be rushed but rather seeps in like musical osmosis.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 12, 2012.