Phil Cook - All These Years LP / CD [PRE-ORDER]Psychic Hotline
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For Phil Cook, it all started with piano. A prolific songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, solo artist, and in-demand musician whose collaborations have run the gamut of genre -- as a founding member of beloved band Megafaun to work with The Blind Boys of Alabama, Bon Iver, Kanye West, and Hiss Golden Messenger, to name a few -- Cook has always been a musician's musician. A sweet and affable presence whose musical dexterity elevates every project he touches, Cook's musical output and true sound has been hard to pin down. But even across all the work he's done in his decades as a musician, he's yet to release a proper piano album. In that way, "All These Years" is sort of the first proper introduction to Cook, to the way he can express himself with the most ease and reveal the deepest compartments of his heart.
"All These Years" is Cook's first solo instrumental album on his primary instrument, recorded at NorthStar Church of the Arts in Durham, NC by his cousin and collaborator Brian Joseph (Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, Indigo Girls). Cook and Joseph have been close their entire lives, with Joseph being one of the people who knows the full depth of Cook's relationship to the instrument. These ten pieces came to life on a long-cared-for and much-loved one-hundred year-old Steinway over a week in the spring of 2021. Piano is where Cook is the most expressive, an easy, free flow of emotional output. "All These Years" feels like starting over, or like a return, trimming everything back to its original starting place.
The church's cavernous space has long been integral to Cook's day-to-day life as an artist -- a venue that suggests music as a higher power, and art-making as a form of worship -- a place that elevates the act of writing a song to something beyond sacred. It's also where Cook's wife, Heather, worked for years; for his family, it's like a second home.
The resulting "All These Years" record is near hymn-like, a collection of prayers or meditations, improvisations threaded together by feeling, by the things that matter most. When Cook began these songs, he was in the headspace of meditating on the people in his support network, and those closest to him. Through composing the music, he began to reflect on specific and important presences in his life, and ends up capturing their essence via keys here. He distills decades of friendship, brotherhood, family, love, learning, and loss into flickering piano portraits -- impressionistic and fluid and reverent. It's not so much looking backwards as it is just looking around, reflections on all that is human and divine and present, and the roads we’ve taken to get us there.