Ryan Cook & Sunny Acres Hot Times

Ryan Cook’s Hot Times deserves the same respect you’d give a fresh fox in the henhouse: all hell’s about to break loose but you have to admire him for his work. On only his third release, Cook’s young age is far from apparent; he’s a cool customer with little regard for adhering to trends, which makes him dangerous. His confidence (without the cockiness that often goes with it) rings true across ten spirited tracks, all originals, revealing writing and arranging talent that parallels his solid chops and formidable strengths as a front-man. Hot Times is honest country with one foot in traditional turf, the other touting his natural singer-songwriter side without the need of an oversized hat or faux cowpokery. That Cook sounds so authentic is because he wants to, having cut his molars in metal camps first — this is clearly who he is and it shows. Sure, the themes are all headache, heartache and heartland yet they’re delivered with East coast honesty for instant authenticity. Add in smart flourishes of pedal steel, harmonica, fiddle, banjo and a few well-placed duets (Mandy Atkinson!) and you’ve got some Hot Times of your own ahead. Spin the banjo-led "Gaspereau Valley” or the heart-wrencher with Atkinson on "Children Smiled” for a taste. Or turn up the twang with the radio-ready "Can’t Win for Trying” or sample the warm wit of "Sharpest Knife” (featuring some fall-down electric guitar). Then go warn the hens. (No Scene)