Up Front and Center Stage At Last

Sittin' On Top Of The World (Pinecastle)
Jack Cooke

By Bob Mitchell

At long last, it's here! Those of us who have listened to Ralph Stanley for 40 years have enjoyed the solid upright bass work and the occasional lead vocal from one of the industry's most respected sidemen, Jack Cooke. Now, for the first time, Cooke steps front and center to share his enthusiastic and honest approach to a bluegrass song. Just as he does in a live concert, Cooke simply rears back and cuts loose with his unique brand of unrestrained musical energy.

The artwork shows a congenial Cooke with his usual big smile, the trusty bass and an outstretched arm waving his trademark cowboy hat. I have been fortunate enough to see that pose more times than I can remember, so I expected this CD to be an enjoyable release. I was not disappointed.

Sittin' On Top Of The World is a joyous celebration of traditional bluegrass. The recording showcases a classic musician, with classic songs, supported by some of the biggest names in the business: Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys (James Shelton on guitar, Steve Sparkman on Banjo, Todd Meade on fiddle and Ralph II on harmony), Del McCoury and his band (Ronnie on mandolin, Robbie on banjo, Jason Carter on fiddle and Mike Bub on bass), David Grisman on mandolin and Jim Lauderdale on harmony.

Every track hits the mark but I especially enjoyed "On and On" with Del McCoury's vocal and Rob's banjo, Cooke's signature song, the title track and "Sugar Coated Love" with harmony from Dr. Ralph and the light hearted Lauderdale-Cooke collaboration, That's How The Cookie Crumbles."

For those who have never seen Cooke in concert should know that when he finishes a song he always adopts the pose depicted on the CD and he shouts, "Thank you music lovers!" This reviewer says, "Jack, Thank you! You have given us many memorable moments."

Cooke's superb CD captures and preserves his special talent. On a five-point scale of excellence this release merits a five.

A big tip of the reviewer's hat goes to Jim Lauderdale and Tom Riggs. It was Lauderdale who approached Cooke with the idea of creating a historical retrospective and it was Lauderdale who funded the initial project. Shortly after a limited pressing, it was Riggs (president of Pinecastle Records) who noticed Cooke making a few copies of the project available to fans at a bluegrass festival. Riggs, like Lauderdale, believed Cooke deserved a first rate product that could also be made available through national distribution. So, a contract was worked out and the muscle of Pinecastle was placed solidly behind Cooke's first and only recording.

For more information go to www.pinecastle.com.