Ryan Cook Peaks and Valleys

Hailing from Nova Scotia, freewheeling country artist Ryan Cook takes on a jazzy swagger for his sophomore release. Recorded at Nashville, TN's Quad studio and featuring a cast of seasoned local musicians, assembled with the help of co-producer Sean Walker, Peaks and Valleys shimmers on every level while maintaining Cook's signature punchy edge. Clever lyrics, such as in "Dead Like Me," a torch song about loving a corpse still beautiful despite a bullet to the head, and "The O.C.D. Blues" make for compelling songs rich in visual imagery. Peaks and Valleys has its quiet moments, but they pale in comparison to his jazzed-up, finger-snapping tracks. Opener "Now That I Found You" and the equally sweet "If I Know Nothing Else" are glossy pop confections liable to make the ladies swoon. Ryan Cook is a smooth but still very genuine entertainer who knows how to cover his bases and reach out to a varying audience by appealing to our most basic, and shared, desires: to love and laugh. (Independent)