Aly Cook: Horseshoe Rodeo Hotel (alycook.com)

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Aly Cook: Midnight Cowboys
Aly Cook: Horseshoe Rodeo Hotel (alycook.com)

Mainstream country music – more Nashville than Austin, and not remotely alt. – barely gets acknowledged in New Zealand outside of specific regions and outlets, which makes you admire singer-songwriter Aly Cook's persistence all the more.

She had taken her music global (tours in Europe, across Australia which seems her second home and of course the US), has an Australian distribution deal and played Tamworth five times, has had five nominations for best female singer at the NZ Country Music Awards (won once), was up for an APRA country song of the year award . . .

And this new album is her second with producer Alan Jansson, best know for producing OMC (How Bizarre) and Sisters Underground's hit In the Neighbourhood. It also comes with some impressive guests (Graham Brazier, Brendan Dugan, guitarists Fats White and Kara Gordon, fiddle player Nik Brown from the Warratahs, Paul Kingery of Three Dog Night and others).

When the first single went on pre-release across the Tasman it immediately went into the country top 40.

So the lady has considerable form and these songs – crafted pop-country with their boots in the dust or on the dancefloor and eyes on blue skies – confirm her abilities.

Love is Fool Time Job and Midnight Cowboys with its gentle throb (co-written by Jansson and Brent Hayward who as Fats White contributes the cover art) have the potential to cross over onto mainstream rock radio where they would happily sit alongside classic hits by Fleetwood Mac and Shania Twain.

Her tribute to the dramatic landscape of the Kimberley (with dijeridoo and clapping sticks) is suitably atmospheric and wide-screen, and there's an aching folk ballad (with a children's choir) about a young soldier from Aotearoa in the killing fields of Sassenay, France.

Take the word “country” out of the equation if it troubles you and just immerse yourself in Cook's considerable gifts, here brought into sharp perspective by Jansson's production and the guests who support but never impose themselves.


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