“Cooke is the project I’ve always wanted to create,” says front-man and lead guitarist Robbie Cook. “It’s my take on a soulful approach to rock n’ roll, one whose core has been seeped in blues and pop music; a modern version of Tom Petty with the smoothness of John Mayer and the soulful vibes of Bill Withers. That’s the sound I’m going for.” The result is music that is just as easily enjoyed blowing down the highway or simply lying next to someone you love. It’s music that you feel. The band, a three-piece group comprised of guitarist/vocalist Robbie Cook (the extra ‘e’ was dropped by bookkeepers on Ellis Island), bassist Dean Perry and drummer Chris Kephart. Their debut EP was released in 2016 with two east coast/mid-west tours that followed. Cook, a thirty-two year old blues guitarist hailing from Ann Arbor, Michigan, was a late bloomer to the music world. He picked up his first guitar at the age of eighteen and hasn’t put it down since, bouncing from project to project until finally moving
to Austin, TX to pursue his dream full-time. He worked hard to define his musical style and was greatly inspired by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Dave Matthews Band, Ben Harper, and countless others before stumbling upon blues master Eric Clapton. “That,” he says, “is when my direction became clear.” A spark was ignited and Cook now strives to emulate musical giants such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Big Bill Broonzy, and Robert Johnson. Cooke’s strong catalog of blues licks, pop hooks, and delicious melodies creates a sound that is modern and exciting while still paying reverence to the classics. “At the end of the day,” Cook says, “I want to write great songs. I want to bring fresh vitality to the Blues, a style that forever changed the course of my life and direction of my dreams. I’m well on my way—here’s hoping I never stop trying.”
Photographer: Dennis Cahlo
New York City is a hotbed for culture and art. That has always been known about this incredible metropolis. However, it can sometimes be forgotten until it is stumbled upon once more by the New York elite. One of the best locations in the city to make this reality happen is at Rockwood Music Hall. With its multiple stages and live music ranging from all genres daily, new discoveries are always being made. Earlier in the summer, one such discovery encouraged some listeners to return for more magic. A blues-rock band by the name of Cooke were prime examples of that culture exploding into the ears of many. They performed this past weekend and won listeners over yet again.
Cooke; made up of Carl Limbacher, Kelly Brown, Jacob Berg and Robbie Cook are a crew who know how to unleash a wide variety of musical gold. Despite the heat, a solid crowd was already present at Stage 1 to witness the wonder of Olithea’s performance before Cooke. (More to come on that lovely lady in a future feature). Cooke looked patiently on and were equally transfixed with the music. What better place to perform amongst contemporaries who are making their mark as well?
Finally, it was time for the band of the hour to set up the stage. Cooke silently prepared their stage while Robbie made sure to open a case full of merchandise for fans to purchase. They are musical entrepreneurs all the way. Plenty of drinks were flowing and the audience were ready for some more good tunes. It was a mixture of calm anticipation that was released when the band immediately started jamming. Cooke was not going to waste any time. They took things off with a rootsy rock vibe to get the blood pumping a bit. Robbie and Kelly’s harmonies came into full exposure here as the keys added onto it all. The band was steadily attempting to loosen up.
From there, the music transitioned into their signature bouncy blues-rock. Robbie, with his trademark fedora hat wailed on his guitar with a look of pure confidence and relaxed grace. The man was right at home on stage. Rockwood was just another casual affair for them to gain some new fans. Almost every song had Robbie’s solos integrated in with a mix of scratchy and clean blues. His guitar licks were close on the neck and were soothing. With a flicker of his fingers, an intense pop-blues riff was created. Chatter often quieted down during those moments. Cooke used those blues elements to blend into several blues styles ranging from Memphis, Chicago and of course New York blues. Cooke was also not afraid to mellow things out in between with Kelly taking the lead. She was extremely passionate with her closed eyes and expressive hands almost always in motion. Her wild hair made listeners look twice as they became mesmerized in the song and with her. Every yell from her chest was strong with feeling. She screamed from her heart.
Carl was swaying and made sure to keep things in sync with his cool bass playing. He was always grinning and looked to the crowd easily enjoying the night. Jacob was the rubber man on the floor with his drum set. His arms were loose and flying, yet he still was up to the task of keeping that beat alive. He owned his style. Cooke then fused some funkyness into their blues that made a mash of elegant music to appear. At times, the blues started the song but later it turned into a classic rock bit.
Kelly started a playful and catchy wailing duet with Robbie’s guitar. Each mimicked the other and improvised on the spot. It was both entertaining and catchy to hear. From there a soulful and somber interlude soon began. Towards the end of the night, the crew did a bluesy rendition of California Dreamin’ by The Mamas and The Papas. It was tight and uniquely done. Stage 1 was singing along, naturally. It was to be the blues anthem of the evening.
All in all, Cooke are one of those groups that listeners should keep an eye on. Take a listen to their debut record, ‘Made In Brooklyn,’ to get a glimpse of their appeal.
This weeks affair ended with locals This That and the Others, who brought some indie surf to the fold, and it began with Cooke. When I was doing my preview for the night I could have sworn there was a little country thing going on there. Well, I must have been distracted when I was checking them out on Soundcloud because hearing them live, their sound was dripping with soul. I knew from the first note we were in for a treat. No fog in a can this time. Just pure, unadulterated, feel good music.