By Phil Sweetland, Music & Radio contributor, The New York Times
Country fans who long for a return to the magic of the Outlaw Movement and the blue-collar magic of artists like Merle Haggard, Connie Smith, and Waylon Jennings just have to wait until June 17.
That’s because the veteran Missouri honky-tonk star and singer/songwriter Curtis Lyn Cook’s long-awaited new album Just My Luck is slated for a June release.
“I’m not crazy about the direction new country is going. I grew up a Merle and Waylon fan,” CLC says in a phone conversation from his aptly named country hometown of Festus, Missouri in late March. “That music to me is timeless, it never gets old.”
Those who have been blessed to hear his songs like “Outlaws,” the autobiographical “What Country Boys Do,” and “Just My Luck” feel the exact same way about Curt’s music, and they have for years.
Thousands of fans and TV viewers in St. Louis got a sneak preview when CLC appeared and performed on KTVI-Fox TV2’s hugely popular morning program on May 9. Kevin Steincross, the host of the program, immediately recognized the excitement an artist who St. Louis fans have loved and danced to for years would generate on the show.
One of Curt’s greatest fans is the Louisiana riverboat captain and country songwriter Joe Kent. The two have become such good friends online that they are now business partners, and 10 of the songs on the new album will be published by Joe’s new Boat Trash Music. The captain has also helped grow CLC’s brand by having him perform and get spins on Podcasts.
Just My Luck also features CLC’s powerhouse versions of two covers: Merle Haggard’s beloved song about performing, “Footlights,” and longtime CLC songwriting bud and inspiration Gene Davis’s “Feelings.”
“Outlaws,” Curt’s signature original with its Waylon-flavored guitar sound and CLC’s powerhouse baritone vocals, recently surpassed 14,500 Web views.
Curt may be a high-tech Redneck these days, but his roots were pure country. He grew up in southeast Missouri, singing in church in a household where Opry stars like Connie and Hag were beloved.
When he was 7, CLC’s uncle brought home a Jumbo Western Guitar and told Curt that if he learned to play the Carter Family’s 1928 classic “Wildwood Flower,” the guitar would be his. He did, and it was.
Curt graduated high school in 1981 and in the mid-1980s moved to St. Louis, where CLC’s band packed clubs like South Forty every night during the country line dance craze. After a few years, Curt returned to his country roots, married the lovely Angie and together they had twin sons, and CLC became very successful again—this time in the transportation business.
But CLC’s passion for music kept burning bright, and in this period his unique, very personal Honky Tonk and Outlaw sound began to emerge.
Soon he found his voice as a songwriter, often influenced by top Music Row tunesmiths he’d met along the way, including Earl Clark, Gene Davis, and CLC’s fellow Missourian Nick Nixon, who has since become one of Curt’s best friends and biggest fans.
“I introduced myself to Earl Clark’s fiddle player,” CLC recalls. “I had a lot to learn, but I was willing and eager to learn what it took. I decided I was gonna play what I enjoy. That was Outlaw Country, anything with an edge and some twang.”
A key ally was guitar wizard Chuck Trollinger, still a stalwart in Curt’s band.
“Chuck’s a genius, somewhere between Don Rich and Pete Anderson and Marty Stuart,” CLC says.
The Just My Luck set is the culmination of all these years of hard work, plus the joy of working with new Music Row connections including Captain Joe and Nashville Music Guide owner Randy Matthews, who also owns TCM Nashville Records.
“I’ve spent 3 ½ years on the album,” CLC says. “We’re gonna do some marketing with it, and I’m real excited. It has 12 songs, 10 of which I wrote. I’m glad it’s taken this long to write and record this record simply because in doing so, I wrote 3 new songs that are now on the album that would not have been there otherwise.”
Curt then says something that in itself sounds like a country title, and shows a hint of what makes this guy’s songs so magical: “I’m tired, but I’m excited.”
So at long last, CLC’s fast-growing army of fans in Missouri, Texas, Tennessee, and around the world on the Internet will hear the latest and greatest music from a man who they’ll feel they’ve known their whole lives, even if they’re hearing his timeless music for the very first time.
Loving some CLC!!
CLC I can’t get enough of your music!!! Lets start workin on the next cd, i cant wait! Ive known you for years Curt, your a great person, & a great friend; but your one HELLUVA OUTLAW!!! Love ya!!