Nashville recording artist, Dana Cooper gives an extraordinary performance last Saturday at The Lazy Days Canteen at Roddy Tree in Hunt, Texas
By ‘Rebel’ Rod Ames
Dana Cooper (Photo courtesy of Tony Gallucci)
Nashville recording artist, Dana Cooper has had an amazing career spanning over four decades. His wide vocal range, along with his incredibly intelligent and poetic lyrics, and just the whole process of composing has helped him to create a very strong cult following around the globe. A faction of that following was in attendance at The Lazy Days Canteen in Hunt, Texas as they proudly presented Mr. Cooper in a performance at their acoustically sound venue this past Saturday. The show went way beyond my expectations, and I was expecting a lot.
Before the show, Mr. Cooper took some time out to sit down with me and answer a few questions. It actually turned out to be a discussion between two men who adore roots music. One of us, however, is about as talented as one could ever hope to be, the other simply struggles to put two sentences together. I would be the latter just in case anyone was wondering.
We spoke about everything from touring to recording, to writing, and joked about our aging and the both of us having terminal cases of CRS (Can’t Remember Stuff). One of the exciting things he told me about was his upcoming CD “Conjurer”, which is due for release in late March.
Dana Cooper tours almost constantly. He said, “It’s a way of life. I’m on the road at least two-thirds of the year with 180 – 200 gigs per year average. A lot of tours are predominantly house concerts.”
He went on to say, “Over the holidays I took a little break. I did some private parties that people ask me to come up and do. Last weekend I went down to Atlanta and then Gainesville, Florida. Then I went back to Nashville and did a gig there. This is the first part of a lengthy tour. I’ll be in Texas until the end of the month with gigs in Houston, Galveston, and Austin. I’ll be in Johnson City later this month at the Silver K Cafe. It’s different, a very small and intimate setting over there.”
Of course, I asked him about any upcoming projects and if there were any plans to team up in the future with his old friend, Shake Russell. To that Mr. Cooper responded, “I’m working on a couple of videos from the CD with some friends of mine in Texas and then there are ongoing collaborations with other songwriters. I tend to co-write more than I used to. I also plan to go overseas and tour in August in Copenhagen, Denmark and other parts of Europe.”
I asked him about the audiences in Europe, and how he is received when he travels abroad. He said, “In most of the European venues there tends to be a much younger audience than I see Stateside. When I can get younger folks in the audience over here they tend to enjoy the show, but they really love us over there. I work with a band over there from Denmark called the Sentimentals. In locales such as Sweden, Ireland and other stops, they really love our culture and the performers love to emulate us. It’s really nice to see. People always really treat us nicely.”
As far as Shake Russell is concerned, he had this to say, “There are no plans in the future in working with Shake Russell. I still talk to Shake occasionally. The Shake Russell/Dana Cooper era was a chapter to the story, not the whole book. Who knows we may do something someday, however, there aren’t any plans in the near future.”
He added, “I’ve been writing some short stories and writing some things down about my parents who were a great inspiration to me. My Dad was a frustrated musician and my mother was a painter. I used to paint, and will probably start doing that more sometime, but for now I’m on the road and enjoying myself. It’s always good to be here, especially in this part (The Texas Hill Country) of Texas”.
Finally, I asked Mr. Cooper about his longevity. He’s been a successful singer/songwriter and has really excelled over the years as a live performer. He had this to say about that, “You know, it’s a real gift to keep doing this as long as I have. If I can remain pertinent as an artist, that’s the greatest thing of all to me. I’ve always just been into the expression of art and it has helped everything to transcend into my performances. It’s sort of a spiritual experience to me. It gets me into an actual state of ecstasy. You know, you can get involved in the music business and decide you will make a bunch of money. In 1973 when I lost my deal with Elektra Records, then was eventually able to see that was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.”
He went on to say he was going to be working with Ray Wylie Hubbard in May at WSM, the radio home of The Grand Old Opry. Overall, I would say Dana Cooper is going to be a very busy live performer and recording artist for many years to come. He has absolutely discovered the secret to longevity. That secret is simple, stay close to the people. That, my friends, he does very well.
The show was opened by a duet from New York City called The Jakes who are comprised of Matthew “Jake” LiVigni and local sensation Jake Asbury, two young men who have only been singing and playing together for about three months.
Jake Asbury and Jake LiVigni are The Jakes (Photo courtesy of Tony Gallucci)
The two first met at Marymount Manhattan University in New York City. They’ve been knocking fans dead around the campus since discovering how well they harmonize together. That reaction didn’t stop with their performance at The Lazy Days Canteen. The almost completely packed room was stunned and I even saw Dana Cooper take a second look during one song.
They did a very nice set to open for Mr. Cooper that included, “You Are My Sunshine”, “Feeling Groovy”, and an incredible A Cappella rendition of The Beatles’ classic “All My Loving’”. Think Simon and Garfunkel. Think The Everly Brothers, hell, think The Louvin Brothers! You get the picture. These two young men are extraordinarily talented singer songwriters (they did one or two original songs that were quite good). Both Jakes possess powerful singing voices and harmonize beautifully. I believe, if they keep working hard at their craft, we will be hearing a lot more from them.
Dana Cooper took the stage at around 9 PM and from the very first tune, he had the audience in the palm of his hand. I knew Dana Cooper was an outstanding musician and songwriter, but when you see him live and hear him at close range, it’s something very different.
His voice range and the things he does with his voice are seemingly impossible. He never once missed a beat or a note. He did have the wrong harmonica once but even with that, it was very nearly seamless and he made a hilarious transition, keeping the beat and the tune going while he made his way to his mouth harp case to find the correct one. That’s what a pro does. They may make mistakes, but if they occur, they seemingly become a part of the show to the point it almost seems as if the gaff belonged there in the first place.
His guitar playing is extraordinary. As stated earlier, I knew he could play, but was not prepared for just how great of a player he is. His expertise added to the dynamics of every tune sending, literally, goose bumps up and down my spine. Yes, there are people who can play guitar as well as he, and in some cases, maybe better, but when you add it all up. The voice, the lyrics, the guitar playing, and oh yeah, the man can blow a mouth harp as good as anyone I’ve ever seen, then you have something very special.
That is precisely what I would say about the show at Lazy Days Canteen at Roddy Tree Ranch. It was special. I’m just glad I was there to witness the event.