Back in Megafaun’s early days, Phil Cook’s day job was clerking the record store he co-owned. It seems like he wouldn’t have time for that these days; aside from his integral role in groups like Megafaun, the Justin Vernon-affiliated GAYNGS and DeYardmond Edison, and working on various pieces and parts of records by Hiss Golden Messenger, The Blind Boys Of Alabama, Matthew E. White, Amy Ray (Indigo Girls), and Alice Gerrard, his solo debut sounds like an effort of singular focus. He co-produced Southland Mission with his brother Brad Cook, and it is a conglomeration of everything from soulful roots and blues, to experimental off-the-wall soft rock, to honeyed folk.
His album artwork alone (above) seems determined to contort your expectations of the record. It’s a bright and child-like drawing that frames Cook, in sepia, giving an uncertain expression. “Anybody Else” is the latest song we’ve heard off the new record; it follows “Great Tide,” his Charlie Parr cover “1922,” and his recent great cover of “Northeast Texas Women” with Amelia Meath (of Sylvan Esso and Mountain Man). The covers both pay homage to the southern tradition that Cook so clearly loves, but it’s interesting to contrast the two original numbers we’ve heard. “Great Tide” sweeps in lovely and low, building to a rollicking, bombastic celebration of communal feeling. “Anybody Else” is more of a slow-burner, meandering in a conversational way toward a solitary, stubborn urge. Two sides of the coin for a songwriter who is ambling toward his own quiet successes.