Eric Brace & Peter Cooper www.redbeetrecords.com
The duo's 2nd album, "Master Sessions," is out now on Red Beet Records. It's a tour de force with two of their instrumental musical heroes: Lloyd Green on pedal steel, Mike Auldridge on dobro. This follows their 2009 release, "You Don't Have To Like Them Both," also on Red Beet Records.
"Eric Brace and Peter Cooper bring the sound of East Nashville to my radio shows. Authentic, intelligent and beautifully played...." -- Bob Harris, BBC Radio
Whether with his band Last Train Home or with his duo with Peter Cooper, singer/songwriter Eric Brace is one of the most acclaimed artists in the Americana world.
His latest release, "Master Sessions" (with Peter Cooper) is garnering the best reviews of Brace's career. Its evocative songs and its astonishing instrumental work, courtesy of pedal steel legend Lloyd Green and dobro ace Mike Auldridge, are raising eyebrows and catching ears worldwide.
Since 1997, Eric Brace has been the frontman and songwriter for the acclaimed roots-rock band Last Train Home. With eight CDs and one live concert DVD to its credit, LTH is one of the most prolific and admired bands in the Americana music world.
At the core of the band's sound are Eric's evocative songs and his warm voice. "Brace's tenor, when combined with his lyrics which evoke endless late nights on the prairies without ever specifically referring to them, is one of the treasures of the whole Americana genre," says roots-rock great Sid Griffin (Long Ryders, Coal Porters) in a review in the peerless British music magazine MOJO. The Washington Post proclaims that "Brace hasn't let years of grueling road work compromise his songcraft," while the British audiophile magazine Hi-Fi Plus lauds Eric's "great grasp of melody and song structure."
Eric's other main musical outlet is his duo work with Peter Cooper. Cooper, who has his own solo career as a singer/songwriter, is also the music writer for Nashville's Tennessean newspaper. When Eric moved to Nashville in 2004, the two became fast friends, a friendship solidified in Peter's living room listening to Tom T. Hall, Willis Alan Ramsey, the Seldom Scene, Charley Pride, and Bear Family box sets while pouring screw top red wine. There were so many influences in common, it was inevitable that they'd soon be performing live together.
The first Brace-Cooper duo release, "You Don't Have to Like Them Both" (Red Beet Records, 2009) had Eric stepping away for the first time from the comfortable surroundings of Last Train Home. Their release was top ten on the Americana and Folk DJ charts and number one on the Freeform American Roots chart. It's lead track, Brace's "I Know a Bird," was a #1 Folk song upon its release. In addition to originals penned by Brace & Cooper, the album included songs by Jim Lauderdale, Todd Snider, Kris Kristofferson, Karl Straub, and Paul Kennerly. The core band was Pedal Steel Hall of Famer Lloyd Green, Jen Gunderman (The Jayhawks, Last Train Home) on keyboards and accordion, Paul Griffith (Todd Snider) on drums, and Dave Roe (Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson) on upright bass. The recording also features Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist Tim O'Brien, guitar kings Richard Bennett (Mark Knopfler, Steve Earle), Tim Carroll (Elizabeth Cook), and KennyVaughan (Marty Stuart, Lucinda Williams), singer-songwriter Jon Byrd, Daniel Tashian (The Bees, The Silver Seas) on ukulele, and Scotty Huff (The Mavericks, Keith Urban) playing a bit of flugelhorn.
The pair's second release, "Master Sessions" (Sept. 2010) was a great excuse to go into the studio with two of Brace & Cooper's instrumental heroes, pedal steel legend Lloyd Green and dobro ace Mike Auldridge, who were great mutual admirers but had never recorded an album together until this one. They surrounded Mike and Lloyd with the most talented and sympathetic musicians they know. And the result is a work of stunning beauty that Mike and Lloyd include among the most fulfilling recordings they've ever made. In addition to Lloyd Green and Mike Auldridge, the players were: Richard Bennett on guitar, Jen Gunderman on keyboards and accordion, Pat McInerney on drums, and Dave Roe on upright bass. The recording also features harmonies by Kenny Chesney (yep, that one), Julie Lee, and Jon Randall. For that release, they recorded songs of theirs, but also tunes by Jim Lauderdale, Todd Snider, Kris Kristofferson, and others.
The collaboration with Peter Cooper is the second of Eric's non-LTH projects, the first being the 2006 release "The Skylighters." That's Eric, plus bluegrass legends Mike Auldridge (dobro, pedal steel) and Jimmy Gaudreau (mandolin, guitar), along with the LTH rhythm section of Jim Gray and Martin Lynds. That record is a lively mix of bluegrass, country, western swing and more.
Besides keeping LTH rolling down the track, Eric's got several other collaborations and solo projects in the works. One currently on the front burner is a musical (or song cycle or concept album or whatever you want to call it) about the California Gold Rush. It's a collaboration with Washington DC songwriter Karl Straub (whose songs "Tonight," "It Doesn't Matter," "They Dance Real Close There," and "Soul Parking" have been recorded by LTH).
This whole musical path started when Eric played in a Boston-area bluegrass band, the Mystic Valley Mountaneers, while in college. Back in Washington DC in the '80s he formed the guitar-pop/indie-rock band B-Time with his brother Alan Brace. A more roots oriented band, the Beggars, followed in the early '90s, again with Alan, LTH steel player Dave Van Allen, singer Alice Despard, ex-Neighbor guitarist John Moremen, and others. Eric also spent several years playing bass with Kevin Johnson & the Linemen. During that same period, Eric ran the Washington-area label Top Records, releasing a dozen albums by DC bands Carnival of Souls, the New Keys, Sleep of Reason, Not Even, and more.
From 1992 to 2002, Eric was a columnist for The Washington Post, covering first the local arts scene, then the area's nightlife and live music world. In 1997, the self-titled "Last Train Home" CD was released, and it was just a matter of time before word got out to the point where Eric could take LTH on the road full-time. That happened in 2003, the same year that LTH won the Washington Area Music Association's Wammie award for "Artist of the Year." Since then, the band has appeared on the CBS's "Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson," the syndicated public radio program "Mountain Stage," and on stage opening for the likes of Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton.
Living in Nashville has led to recognition of Eric's strengths as a songwriter, and he has collaborated with some of Nashville's finest writers, such as Jim Lauderdale, Walter Egan, Peter Cooper, and Amelia White. He formed the Red Beet Records label, releasing three compilation CDs of music from a variety of splendid East Nashville musicians, as well as Peter Cooper's "Mission Door" and "The Lloyd Green Album, and Fayssoux Starling McLean's "Early."
Buy This CD Now http://redbeetrecords.com/index.htm?id=15637&sid=15619
Recorded by Adam Bednarik at House of David Studios (Nashville) and Mike Esser at 16 Ton Studios (Nashville)
Mixed by Richard McLaurin at House of David Studios
Mastered by Alex McCollough at Yes Master (Nashville)
Photography by Jim McGuire (Nashville)
CD design by Bill Thompson (Harrisonburg, VA)
Produced by Eric Brace and Peter Cooper
Mike Auldridge: Dobro
Richard Bennett: Guitars, octave mandolin
Eric Brace: Acoustic guitar, vocals
Peter Cooper: Acoustic guitar, vocals
Lloyd Green: Pedal steel guitar
Jen Gunderman: Keyboards, accordion
Pat McInerney: Drums, percussion
Dave Roe: Bass
Jon Randall: Harmony vocals (2, 5, 11)
Julie Lee: Harmony vocals (4, 7, 8, 11)
Kenny Chesney: Harmony vocals (1)
1. Wait a Minute
(by Herb Pedersen) ---- When Eric and Peter were absorbing the lessons of the Seldom Scene on those long ago Thursday nights, this Herb Pedersen song was always on the set list. It's one of the best songs ever written about the consequences of the oft-romanticized life on the road. Of course, it made them both want a life on the road. Weren’t they listening? (And yep, that's Kenny Chesney on the low harmony. Turns out he's a huge Seldom Scene fan too.)
2. Suffer a Fool
(by Peter Cooper & Don Schlitz) ---- People get better at stuff through practice. Ask Peter’s wife, Charlotte, who has gotten so much better at patience.
3. It Won't Be Me
(by Eric Brace & Karl Straub) ---- Eric loves railroads and train stations so much he named his band Last Train Home. Long ago, Peggy Lee had a hopeful hit, "Waitin' for the Train to Come In," but here, the train that comes in is bringing bad news, and this guy has to grab the next one out.
4. Missoula Tonight
(by Eric Brace & Peter Cooper) ---- When Eric saw a Montana forest fire up close, it stuck in his head. Fire. Wind. Water. Powerful stuff, especially for those in the way.
5. Big Steve
(by Peter Cooper & Don Schlitz) ---- Music belongs to the ones who love it most. In Nashville, that's Big Steve, Music City’s favorite doorman. You can likely find him at Douglas Corner next time you're in town.
(by Eric Brace & Peter Cooper) ---- It’s hard to be a clown, and harder not to be one. Good thing kids love ‘em. Lyrics aside, here’s a simple, finger-picked pattern that Lloyd and Mike weave into something far beyond what Eric and Peter could have imagined. Come to think of it, that applies to this whole record.
7. Behind Your Back
(by Peter Cooper) ---- Talking behind your back doesn't have to be a bad thing. Characters in this song include Lonesome Bob Chaney, Allison Moorer, Chris Richards, David Olney, Denice Franke, and Vince Bell. Peter wrote “Behind Your Back” mostly about Eric Taylor, about whom many great things are said. Not enough, but many.
8. I Flew Over Our House Last Night
(by Tom T. Hall) ---- As usual, Tom T. Hall shows how it's done. He wrote this song while flying over his old house, seated next to Connie Smith after a gig. He was looking out the window, humming a tune. She said, "What are you doing?" He said, "Writing a song." Could something so great, so moving, really be that simple? Eric recorded this in 2007 for the "Last Train Home: Live at IOTA" DVD and CD, but he couldn't pass up the chance to hear Lloyd and Mike and Peter and the rest of this team of all-stars sink their musical teeth into this great song.
9. Nice Old Man
(by Peter Cooper) ---- Peter probably wrote this song about his grandfather, John W. Cooper.
10. Silent Night
(by Jon Byrd) ---- This song shares a title with the holiday tune, but East Nashville's Jon Byrd reminds us that the sentiments of that old carol always apply, even when you're "gliding down the road on a hot summer day, so bright."
11. I Wish We Had Our Time Again
(by John Hartford) ---- The saddest romp ever written. “Dear old friends have to turn their eyes.”