18 songs – 60 minutes
It has been five long years since the release of Les Copeland’s first album, Don’t Let The Devil In (also on Michael Frank’s Earwig Music), but To Be In Your Company is well worth the wait. 18 songs are packed into the CD and there is not a duff effort amongst them.
Opening with the title cut, British Columbia native Copeland pays loving tribute to Honeyboy Edwards, his teacher, musical partner and travelling companion of 15 years. For the next hour, the listener can sit back and soak in some of the best music released this year.
To Be In Your Company is a primarily acoustic affair featuring Copeland’s superb finger-picked guitar playing and wonderfully warm, weathered voice. Effects are used subtly on a couple of songs and Sari and Cat Wells add wonderful backing vocals on three or four tracks – at times there are hints of Willie B. Harris’ ethereal voice behind Blind Willie Johnson on his classic recordings. Check out “Why We Love Each Other”, “I’d Be Lonely Too” and “Somethin Sweet And Nice” especially. Copeland also demonstrates some fine slide guitar playing on “Borderline.”
While Copeland wrote the majority of the songs, demonstrating a quirky, intelligent sense of humor in his lyrics, his selection of covers is outstanding, ranging from Bob Dylan’s “Moonshiner” to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Ribbon Of Darkness”. And his imagination appears to be limitless when it comes to producing new interpretations. The Kinks’ classic trippy “Sunny Afternoon” is reworked as a Rev Gary Davis workout. Jim Stafford’s “Swamp Witch” is dipped in the gurgling brew of the Louisiana Bayou, resulting in a much darker and more threatening interpretation, with an oddly beautiful instrumental bridge. Billy Joe Shaver’s “I’m Just An Old Chunk Of Coal (But I’m Going To Be A Diamond Someday)” is dragged from its famous modern electrified country version back to its acoustic, finger-picked roots and is all the better for it.
Copeland’s own songs are equally as impressive, from the weariness and longing of “Bessie” to the upbeat ragtime of “I Dream About You” in which he declares “Sure don’t wanna tell you of my nightmares, how they creep me out so bad – it’s true. But now all the while, I wake up with a smile, I’d like to tell you about my dreams because I dream about you.”
One of the highlights of the album is “Knucklehead”, which features a heavily-chorused guitar that is both strikingly unusual and utterly perfect for the song coupled with a hilarious story of a man whose loving partner, Cherry Red, insists on calling him Fred or Jed or Ted and jokingly dismisses him as a knucklehead before admitting she does love him.
To Be In Your Company is a fantastic release. It is one of those albums that keeps finding its way back onto this reviewer’s playlist, always offering something new to enjoy, and it is highly recommended.