Citizen Cope (a.k.a. "Clarence Greenwood") fills a much needed spot in the music world with The Clarence Greenwood Recordings. Where many singer/songwriters fall flat, are barely listenable, or fail to stand out, Cope has managed to put together eleven songs that work well as an album or individually. Drawing from 70's soul, a touch of hip-hop, and a bit of island groove, Cope focuses on his strength as a storyteller. Cope's success is in no small part due to the content of his songs. While he works on the emotions we all experience, he's not whining about love lost or heartbreak city; he's dealing with social issues and deep thoughts as he crafts songs based on characters we either relate to or long to learn about.

Recorded in Jimi Hendrix's NYC famed Electric Lady Studios and Central East Studios in Washington, D.C., Cope covers most of the music on this, his second release. He sings, plays guitar, and works the drum machine. But this isn't a one man show - he also enlists the help of such luminaries as Carlos Santana (lead guitar on "Son's Gonna Rise") and Me'Shell NdegeOcello (bass on "Sideways").

The first track, "Nite Becomes Day," starts with a warm summer vibe, like you're walking down the city street, headphones on, music playing, girls smiling. The tasteful keywork adds a smooth touch to Cope's buttery vocals. The sweet island sounds continue with "Pablo Picasso" as Cope tells the tale of a deranged man who falls in love with a painting. "Sideways" finds an introspective Cope on acoustic guitar backed by strings while his vocals take center stage, a nice addition that shows his depth as a true singer/songwriter. The production is well done, creating a full sound that avoids the common pitfall of over-producing good songs and making them sound like every other chump on the block. Kudos to Clarence Greenwood on his production work as well as his song writing.

Balancing the softer side of music without forcing this writer to cringe is often a difficult task. To create music of this nature without making it sound trite, contrived, or flat boring is quite an achievement - one Citizen Cope can relish. The Clarence Greenwood Recordings gives us the good parts of Jack Johnson and G. Love without cheesing out; this is the direction in which we hope to see "pop" music head.

JamBase | San Francisco
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[Published on: 1/26/05]

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