Ray Cooper - Land Of Heroes [CD]
Cat. no: 87404
Release Date: 16th April 2021
Stories are at the centre of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ray Cooper’s work and his fourth album Land of Heroes follows the question who today’s heroes are.
He finds them in all walks of life - from journalists to whistleblowers, from hospital nurses, to a prince and a close friend who died. “I get my ideas from memories, dreams, history books, biographies, online news outlets, conversations I remember or imagine, I have no method”, Cooper claims, “I look back on history with the hope to learn something about the present; to catch the repeating patterns.”
The album was written and recorded within five months during the summer of 2020 in a small wooden cabin close to the forest in Sweden: “I had to cancel all my touring in March 2020 but this gave me a perfect opportunity to concentrate on writing and recording” Cooper says, “I locked myself in my log cabin for the summer, emerging occasionally to swim in the nearby lakes. Lockdown became lock-in, I achieved a long standing dream, which was to be free to think and work in the studio with no deadline.”
The album uses a haunting soundscape of acoustic instruments all played by former Oysterband member Cooper himself. The only additions were some backing vocals from British singer-songwriter Rowan Godel done over the internet. There is a northern feel to the whole album; the darkness of the forest is never far away, which might just have something to do with Cooper’s life: “I am half-Scottish, half-English, I now live in Sweden, I have no home town”.
The album title Land of Heroes is taken from the Finnish Kalevala epic’s subtitle and there is a curious Finnish thread running through the album; the kantele, a kind of Finnish harp, is present in the background of many tracks, and the instrumental “Ilmarinen’s Ride” is named after one of the brave but rather unlucky heroes of the Kalevala.
The album starts off in grand style with the instrumental “The Burning Pile” preparing the listener for something a little different. The only traditional folk song originates in Canada: “Brave Wolfe” is a song about a traditional kind of hero and links in with the instrumental cello solo piece “Canada Hill” named after a small hill on the island of Bute in Scotland near Cooper’s family home, where, in the 1800’s, relatives of emigrants would gather to wave a last goodbye.
“Traditional tunes” says Cooper, “are woven into my memory and are as much a part of my cultural roots as rock ‘n’ roll and my influences range from Johnny Cash to folk music to Ennio Morricone.” The album finishes on a softer note with “Dark Sky Park”, a romantic song about the beauty of the night written by the self-declared romantic.
RnR - advert, track on enclosed CD, review May issue more to come
Tracks: The Burning Pile / Whistleblower / Circles / Eyes Of Mercy / The Beast / Canada Hill / We Need More Heroes / Dark Father / Ilmarinen’s Ride / Brave Wolfe / Dark Sky Park