Enjoy the music of internationally known Dana Cooper right here in Rockford on Tuesday, July 28. In a free concert starting at 8 p.m., Cooper will perform at Grill One Eleven, 111 Courtland Street, downtown Rockford. The singer/songwriter has wowed audiences throughout the U.S. and Europe recently with tunes from his newest album, “Made of Mud,” to be released on September 13 on King Easy Records. Cooper’s ingenious guitar work and gutsy harmonica continue to augment his passionate voice and insightful lyrics. This collection of 11 songs produced by Richard McLaurin features acclaimed Nashville talents Dave Jacques, Paul Griffith, Eric Fritsch, Steve Hermann and Vickie Hampton.
Out of the heartland of America, the stomping ground of Truman and Twain, Cooper was playing his music in Kansas City clubs by the age of 16. Leaving behind a college art scholarship, Cooper toured the country and landed in Los Angeles. In 1973, Elektra Records released his self-titled debut solo album featuring luminary players Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar and Jim Horn. Cooper later moved to Texas to join forces with long-time friend Shake Russell. Their collaborations produced five highly successful folk-rock albums, including one on MCA in 1981. The two became one of the most popular acts throughout Texas and the Southwest, appearing together on Austin City Limits. Cooper and Russell continue recording and performing together to this day.
Over the years, Cooper has released many independent solo albums, including the critically acclaimed “Miracle Mile” on Compass Records. This album was nominated for a Nashville Music Award as “Best Pop Album” and was picked by Performing Songwriter Magazine as one of the top 12 DIY recordings for the year. Cooper’s latest CD, “Harry Truman Built A Road,” was named one of the best records of 2002 by The Tennessean in Nashville and was again chosen as one of the top 12 DIY recordings for that year.
Recent tours of Denmark, Ireland, Sweden and Germany have gained Cooper exuberant support from audiences and radio as well as collaborations and friendships with many songwriters in these countries.
Cooper has been named Best Songwriter in Houston, was nominated Best Male Vocalist by the Kerrville Music Foundation and was nominated by their Hall of Fame. His songs have been recorded by top-notch artists Mauro O’Connell, Jonell Mosser, Susan Werner, Jen Cohen, Christine Albert, Trout Fishing in America, Pierce Pettis, John Smith and Shake Russell.
Cooper’s new album crowns those accomplishments with a suite of songs that span the entirety of his career. The most recent, “Sit This One Out,” was finished during recording sessions last year; the earliest, “Step Into The Light,” was written with Russell in San Francisco three decades ago.
“I wanted purposely to include some of these older songs,” said Cooper. “I thought they fit what I’m doing now. It’s funny how a song that old will still be so timely.”
There is one unexpectedly timely tune on “Made of Mud” that Cooper didn’t write: Woody Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd.” It’s the first cover version Cooper has ever included on an album, although he’s been performing it since his coffeehouse years in Missouri.
“I thought some of the things that are going on now hearken back to the Depression, when there were outlaws in the country fighting against the banks and the big-money guys,” Cooper explained. “I see the time we’re in now as similar to that time in a lot of ways.”
Despite such disparate origins, the 11 tracks on “Made of Mud” bring a broad range of human experience into focus and clarity, coherence and concision