Artist: Emma Cook
Album: Hit and Run
Technical Grade: 9/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Commercial Value: 8/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: Coffee Shop Girl, Wound Up, Hit and Run
Emma Cook can be a jazzy hipster a la Rickie Lee Jones, an eclectic avant-folkie like Joni Mitchell, or a soulful ingénue of the Dusty Springfield school. She takes the best of my heroines and gives us Hit and Run.
“This Boy” opens the CD with finger-snapping jazz folk – Emma’s vocal dances around the melody, and her acoustic rhythm is a steady groove. Ben Sures delivers lightning bolts of electric guitar, which he does throughout the album.
On “Song You Asked Me Not to Write,” Emma’s voice is sultry, smoky and vulnerable. Her backing vocals are ethereal and cool on this and many other cuts. Another soulful delight, “Just A Man,” has a smoldering groove and more of Sures’ searing guitar.
The title cut is a sweet Americana (Is it called that in Emma’s native Canada?) romp, complete with fiddle and accordion. The bright verses tumble into the lilting countrified chorus – I can hear Shania Twain doing this one, and it would be in the more authentic vein of her earlier work. “The Lookout” is another twangy, fun tune – I like both of these, and I’d like to hear Emma do a whole release of these kinds of songs.
“Coffee Shop Girl” just puts a big grin on my face. It’s bouncy and poppy, with the delightful bonus of Lina Allemano’s trumpet. Great bop-bopping chorus, too, and it is clever how the song’s brightness belies the wistful lyrics. The achingly pretty “Beautiful You” follows – Emma has a daring vocal range, and she hits some nice notes here. Plus, the trio of guitars (two acoustic, one electric) chime together elegantly.
“Wound Up” is one of the most killer songs on the disc, a sensuous jazz rocker punctuated by John Showman’s fiddle. Again, Emma shows she is an agile rhythm guitarist, and her vocal is wailing and take-no-prisoners sexy. “Even Your Mama Can Wear Stiletto Boots” is also really direct and really cool, with sharp lyrics and distinct mute trumpet.
I like a good tearjerker closer, and “Already Gone” is made even sadder with Paul McCulloch’s cello. Emma Cook lays her thoughts and emotions bare throughout Hit and Run, and it’s as if “Already Gone” squeezes out the last drops of what’s left in her soul at the end of this fine release.