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SXSW 2008 has ended
Friday, March 14 • 11:30pm - Saturday, March 15 •12:00am
Amy Cook

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Everybody knows the stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas, and the celestial has always been proudly represented in Lone Star culture, be it bands (Explosions in the Sky), sports (Houston Astros) or the state nickname itself. Amy Cook also sees something unique up there, but the alt-folk singer-songwriter isn’t content simply marveling at the enormity of what lies beyond earth. On The Sky Observer’s Guide—written in a prolific four-week gush—she tells simple, bittersweet, earthbound stories, refracted through the panoramic scope of the heavens. Things like this happen when you leave the industrial clamor of L.A. for a humble, weirdly-named West Texas town like Marfa. “I named the record at the very end after I realized, going back on all these songs, there’s a song about an eclipse [‘Coming Home’], one called ‘Bright Colored Afternoons’—it really was all about the sky, the weather, the planets, the stars,” Cook confirms. “Marfa’s nothing but open sky and a million stars and I think that got me on those sort of analogies—thinking about the bigger picture of it all, putting yourself in the place of just being here on this planet, where you can cover the moon with the tip of your thumb like an eclipse. It doesn’t make you feel insignificant, but it changes your perspective to be somewhere with a wide-open sky.” Although her songs popped up all over the teen drama continuum (Dawson’s Creek, Laguna Beach, Veronica Mars), Cook grew weary of the industry grind in 2005 and packed up for Austin. Along the way she took a timeout in Marfa and met Leisha Hailey of Showtime’s acclaimed original series The L Word. The actress and the songwriter made fast friends; Hailey not only got Cook her best show placement of all (“The one on The L Word is my favorite because [Leisha’s character] was doing a radio show and she said, ‘That was Amy Cook on Marfa Records,’”) but encouraged her to write The Bunkhouse Recordings (slated for re-release this year with bonus live tracks), a full-length so intimate that Cook and her acoustic are backed by chirping crickets and a restless dog. Falling in love with Marfa—a quirky convergence of Mexican-Americans, artists and musicians where Ray’s, the bar with the “best beer in the world” is inexplicably called Lucy’s—was inevitable. “For me, [Marfa] is one of the last places around where you can actually make small dreams come true,” says Hailey. “You feel like a pioneer: no judgment, no expectations. I was looking for someone willing to take the dive with me in this new label. When I heard Amy, it all became clear to me. I hadn’t heard someone with a voice like that unless I paid a high ticket price for it.” Natural talent notwithstanding, Cook thrives at collaboration. Drum and bass trailblazer and acclaimed producer Jamie Myerson (Duncan Sheik, AM) not only mans the Sky Observer boards, but mutates Cook’s chords into synth “craziness” in their forward-thinking side project Fine Day for Flying. Then there’s the new album’s gorgeous packaging: Artist Amy Adler, who had previously curated Joni Mitchell’s first-ever art showing, fashioned five 5X5 sepia renderings of Cook, in turn providing stories that inspired Sky Observer’s deeply personal narratives. “I think she feels a tiny bit trapped by the idea that art doesn’t have sound,” Cook notes of Adler, “so she wanted to do a project that kind of combined the two things, where the art influenced the music and the music influenced the art. In the end we really did inform each other in so many ways. I don’t think I would’ve written the album without her, and she wouldn’t have done these pieces. “At first she would send me stories about her life—which were really, really beautiful—and they just set something off. I toyed with writing about her, then I decided that these songs were really about me. Not that we have completely similar life experiences, but it was just certain things that she said and the way that she wrote them. She was writing a lot about her father, which got me writing about my grandmother.” That reminiscence, “Pearl,” is beautifully typical of Cook’s oeuvre, soaked in delay, slide and strum, abetted by guitarist Brad Rice, bassist Bobby Daniel and drummer Nina Singh. From the upbeat drawl of “The Answer” to the sparse, cautiously optimistic “Sunshine,” The Sky Observer’s Guide is beset with an epic light and dark representative of its creator. “The songs might be melancholy, but there’s always something sort of hopeful about them,” she shrugs. “Probably because it’s the way that I am.”
http://2008.sxsw.com/music/showcases/band/66776.html

Friday March 14, 2008 11:30pm - Saturday March 15, 2008 12:00am
Lamberts Patio 401 W 2nd St

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