Citizen Cope

Citizen Cope is back, and for many people that means absolutely nothing. But for a cult following that means they get another chance to re-up on a sound best described as unique. I mean, Cope isn’t some crooner belting love ballads and he also isn’t a sweetly whispering, singer-songwriter. He’s not a rocker or a rapper. And really, if I was forced to just pick one label for this guy, it would probably have to be poet, inciting love and revolution, more than anything else.

Cope’s most acclaimed album was The Clarence Greenwood Recordings, where he garnered a hefty following, all waiting to sing “Sideways,” and “Son’s Gonna Rise,” at the top of their lungs. And after that (as well as before) he had solid projects, but nothing quite sticking like that one. But on his latest effort, One Lovely Day, Cope brings us back to the sound we (yes, I’m a fan) love.

The title track, which is also the first song, is an easy tune full of love and whimsy. It has everything Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” has — a mellow rhythm, a catchy melodic chorus, and Cope’s greatest asset, a palpable sincerity that has run throughout his career. The same quiet rebellion that we saw on “Penitentiary,” “John Lennon” and “Newspaper,” he brings back on songs like, “Back Then,” a mid-tempo manifesto about how awesome life must’ve been before the infiltration of media and money and pressure and politics. He also has his signature contemplative songs like, “Southern Nights,” and my favorite, the way too short, “For a Dollar,” where he lazily sings, What eases your heart is not always what eases your spirit or your soul.

So what’s not to like? Well, the truth is, Citizen Cope is far from a vocal dynamo. You aren’t going to get much on One Lovely Day when it comes to his singing, and even though he makes beautiful songs, he also runs the risk of monotony just because his range is limited. There really isn’t a grey area — you love it or you hate it. But tell that to Leonard Cohen. What I mean is, Cope makes up for his mediocre (to some) but unique voice with strong, thoughtful songwriting. He’s obviously not looking to have a radio hit, or top the charts. Instead, he seems to be pretty comfortable crafting music for his two thousand fans a show, screaming his lyrics, some with love in their eyes, and some with fists in the air. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

-Jason Reynolds