By Jack Pine
Emma Cook is an example of how a young artist can be successfully nurtured, mentored, and inspired to be creative. As it turns out, folk singers do not have to hit the road and stumble around several years to make good music. Cook, a Leelanau County singer/songwriter, will host a CD release party for her debut recording Days of Wonder on Sunday, January 2 at 5 p.m. at the Loading Dock in TC.
Both of Cooks parents are musicians. Her dad plays mandolin and her mother is a piano teacher. Cook grew up a child of Blissfest and has attended the folk festival almost every year since she was a baby.
It is always fun Cook says. There is this moment when you crest a hill and see all the tents. It is a sigh of relief, almost. I feel so comfortable there.
Instead of rebelling against her parents music, Cook has connected with it and is inspired by the performers at the festival.
I grew up watching Seth Bernard and May Erlewine, says Cook, who is now 20. I was 12 or 13 when they were starting out. It has been inspiring to watch them. When I was 14 I saw Leo Kottke there and that changed my life. I remember thinking, Its just one guy and a guitar and you cannot look away. It was a really powerful experience for me. They always have awesome performers at Blissfest. When you are in middle school or high school you just get music on the radio. Seeing people play live was pretty pivotal.
After a few starts and stops on piano and guitar as a kid, Cook began getting more serious about her musical studies as a freshman at Glen Lake High School. One of the course requirements was to write a song and she found she really liked the experience. It is now a part of her life and she has been writing songs continually since then.
Cook began performing at house concerts and art openings with Glen Lake classmate and guitar player Will Hendricks. They have played the last two years at Blissfest and this past summer they entered and won a contest for acoustic musicians called The Battle on the Boardman sponsored by radio station WKLT.
With her own catalog of songs beginning to accumulate, Cook turned her thoughts towards recording.
I thought Well, what am I writing for if not to share them, Cook says. My friends know my songs, people respond well, so I thought this would be the next step.
Days of Wonder was recorded at Pat Niemistos Holy-Wah studio near Glen Lake. Niemesto was Cooks music teacher at Glen Lake High and also her collaborator on this project. It is a folk based recording, without sounding very bluegrassy or folky. Some songs swing such as Melt Away but the overall mood of Days of Wonder is introspective and meditative.
There are light touches of trumpets, flutes, guitar, dobro and even thumb piano, but Cooks voice (a little bit Brandi Carlile, a little bit Norah Jones) is the featured instrument. On several of the songs she adds her own harmonies which works really well and gives the music a depth of sound that distinguishes it from most local recordings.
Listeners have a chance to hear for themselves at the Loading Dock on Sunday. Cook will have a full band with her including several of the musicians that played on her CD. Music starts at 5 p.m. It is open to all ages and is a free show.