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A more accessible flamenco

Frontiers
Frontiers
By Jesse Cook

Koch Records: 2008

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This review first appeared in Turbula in May 2008.

No matter what his record label or MySpace page want us to believe, the music that Canadian guitarist Jesse Cook plays is not flamenco. Not the real thing, anyway, and never mind that he and his wife lived in Seville for a while. It's closer to what New Age guitar duo Willie & Lobo play: a Spanish-tinged easy listening/World Beat acoustic music.

But the guy can flat-out play – could undoubtedly play legit Spanish flamenco if he wanted. (But how many North American music fans are really into flamenco, with its dark moods and dissonant chords? The music has a hard enough time hanging on to its fan base in its native Spain.) His new album (just released in the United States on the Koch label) features 11 new songs from his pen, plus a riveting, flamenco-flavored cover of Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe" (with a knockout vocal by young singer Melissa McClelland.

And if not flamenco, his music is more accessible to American ears; more upbeat, brighter, yet just as technically challenging.