Fans of his first two should albums realize quickly that only half of his new one, Every Waking Moment, sounds different enough to be considered a new direction, but even the material that feels leftover from The Clarence Greenwood Recordings (including the live version of Bullet and a Target) packs enough punch to raise this album up a few notches. I’m particularly enamored by the first four tracks, which squarely put the singer/songwriter into a category of his own making, something comparable to 70’s soul music, or street wise folk. What I find most striking about Citizen Cope (whose stage name is not to be mistaken with Julian Cope, who I’ve panned in the past) is his penchant for melding in seemingly complete opposites. It’s like all at once he’s uniquely spiritual and political, tormented and inspirational, passionate and laid back.
Just as on his last two albums, one of the most compelling parts is hearing what this man has to say. The first track, Back Together, is pure personal introspection, laid out plainly in the lyrics.
Today though things ain’t goin’ my way
I’m back together again
I’m staring at the mirror
and it’s been been so long
since I’ve seen you my friend
The title track, Every Waking Moment, plays out musically as a Southern ballad as mellow and sincere as Ray Charles’ Georgia on My Mind. But the next track, Friendly Fire, sounds off what can reasonably be construed as Cope’s genuine anger over the government response to Hurricane Katrina.
They say help is coming
They say help his on it’s way
They shot him down
And he was innocent today
They run for cover
They got no answer
Why they left him for dead
Most of this personal venting comes to a fever pitch with Brother Lee, which sounds intentionally like a companion piece to Cope’s most famous song, Sun’s Gonna Rise. What’s heard on top of the pulsating lyrics, though, is a sentiment which suggests the slow formation of an army of loyal fans, potentially ready to turn their anger into something politically tangible.
Should that ever happen, the Democratic party might consider using Citizen Cope and his fan base of disgruntled youth for a strategic ally come November. And if he keeps up songwriting with as much power and grace as his most current offering, who knows how the times they might a change.
Forget whatever that Dylan guy said.