"The Clarence Greenwood Recordings"
The title of Citizen Cope's new release suggests the unearthing of a vintage anthology of folk music, replete with obscure blues, offbeat narratives, curious fables and the occasional social commentary. The 11 tracks on the CD, albeit recently recorded by Cope (aka Clarence Greenwood) and certainly not confined to folk influences, live up to those expectations and then some.
Cope has strong ties to the Washington area -- part of the new album was recorded here -- but his music isn't rooted in any place or time. A simple song like "My Way Home" with its loping beat and spiritual slant, sounds as if it might have been inspired by a 19th-century gospel refrain, while "Nite Becomes Day," with its lazy, melodic charm and chattering atmospherics, could pass for a fresh hip-hop/soul/reggae-tinted take on something composed by Randy Newman 30 years ago. "Pablo Picasso" on the other hand, is sheer modern-day fantasy, strange and delusional, and there's no mistaking the contemporary thrust behind the rap-inflected "Bullet and a Target" and blues-tinged "Fame."
Cope's voice rarely rises above the level of a sleepy drawl, and though he's primarily a guitarist, you wouldn't necessarily discover that listening to the album's textured and frequently entrancing tracks. Cameos by guitarist Carlos Santana and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello surface here and there, but it hardly matters. When everything clicks, "The Clarence Greenwood Recordings" comes across as the product of one man's fertile imagination and restless soul.
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Friday at the 9:30 club. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Citizen Cope, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8103. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)