Amy Cook’s Summer Skin splits the bull’s eye. The Austin resident’s third album — following 2007’s The Sky Observer’s Guide and 2010’s Let the Light In — doubles down on her previous efforts with absolutely stunning results. Cook humbly accepts this report during a recent phone interview.
“Hopefully, you get better at what you do as you go along,” she says. “I think I’ve gotten better at some things. Being able to say what I wanted more simply and clearly and even melodically, in a sense. I knew what I wanted to do more specifically.”
Yes, indeed. Everything simply works. Cook’s buoyant new collection, a vibrant swath equal measures graceful (“Break Your Fall”) and gorgeous (“Changing”), earns a vote for this year’s best album. Robert Plant’s cameo on “It’s Gonna Rain” achieves a high watermark among the endless highlights.
“Robert’s very, very kind and funny,” Cook says. “It’s obviously amazing — still — to hear his voice on that song. He’s wonderful to work with. In the studio, I was like, ‘That sounded great’ after he did it the first time. He’s like, ‘Don’t just blow smoke. Tell me what to do!’ I was like, ‘I’m not. It did!’ He’s a wealth of information and humor and charm.”
At close, “When I Wake Up” provides the greatest reward. Try not playing on repeat three dozen times a day. The song shapes a perfect circle with no discernible beginning or end and not a single stray trace. Cook’s lift-off on the final word — “I’m a-gonna be a fool, yeah, a fool for you” — will drive you straight back to the beginning over and over and over again. Unshakeable.