Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brett Allen
As you deplane or pull into the city limits of Nashville, Tennessee, you're suddenly acutely aware that you're amongst songwriters and wannabe songwriters - those putting a tongue to the tip of a pen and that pen to paper, attempting to string together some clever lines and rhymes to pay for their Ramen noodles in hopes that it will be one of the last bags they'll ever have to crunch apart and boil. Songs are currency in the country music capital of the world and it's an interesting thing that an Englishman, who moved here in 1975 to be a songwriter, is one of the best in the business. Roger Cook is part of Nashville royalty and the 70-year-old songwriter is the only British citizen in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, a distinction he's earned by having written a staggering 80 songs that have charted in the top 30 across numerous genres, as well as penning one of the most iconic commercial jingles of all-time with his sometimes writing partner Roger Greenaway - the 1971 song, "I Want To Buy The World A Coke." Cook lives in the same city that Kris Kristofferson lived in and started writing what would be hit records while working as a janitor. This bearded, trim and healthy looking man who doesn't look his age in the slightest is still writing and performing and it can be heard on this session that he's not just one of those guys who couldn't cut it as a performer as well. Engaging and occasionally silly in his renditions of classic songs that were made famous by big names like the Hollies, Don Williams, Elton John, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and the list just goes on and on, Cook gives us these songs in their original state, strummed out on an acoustic guitar, crooner-style, showing all of the traits that were then and have been so attractive to millions of people. His introduction, in a way self-deprecating and in a way indicative of the unknown status of the people behind the hit songs of Nashville, goes, "Hi, it's Roger Cook here. Yes, yes, that Roger Cook and I'd like to welcome ya'll to Daytrotter," following which he breaks right into "I Believe In You," a song that Bette Midler and Williams both did takes on. It's a loping, back-porch-swing number that Cook sings in an altered state here - with some different lyrics and excluding mentions of The Beatles, Haagen Daz ice cream and Elvis. It touches beautifully on one of the themes that Cook's always been such a master at, and that is the recognition that love might be setting in or that there's a good thing happening here. It's not a difficult thought, but some of his best songs are takes on this idea, which almost features a bent on domesticity, the desire to settle into a home with a good woman and get away from situations where you could be let astray and into a bad mess. On "Love Is On A Roll," Cook gives us a few lines that sum up the man as a writer and what he wrote about, singing, "Now, I'm a songwriter/A professional dreamer/Mostly a singer, but sometimes a screamer/So, I gotta go/I gotta get home early/Be with my woman so soft and curvy/Made me feel like a king, not a regular Joe/…I would like to stay and party, but love is on a good roll."