Loaded with all the features required to stimulate disciples of the old school Nashville sound – lumbering guitars, a sizzling lead vocal, and a swaying groove as robust as they come – Drew Cooper delivers a smashing new country song in “Best of Me” that you won’t want to miss. “Best of Me” starts up with a roar, firing off a heavy riff that skulks about in the background as Cooper does battle with a big beat for the lion’s share of our affection. His vocal tone is vintage, but his lyricism isn’t archaic at all.
Lately, it’s felt as though the country music community is more fractured than ever before, with alternative movements popping up in the underground and the establishment itself starting to fray, but I don’t get an overtly political bend to this song at all. Drew Cooper isn’t trying to assert himself as being a part of one scene over another here, nor does he appear to have any interest in watering-down or recycling the rhythm and rhyme of his stylistic forerunners. This singer/songwriter has his own stories to tell, and this new look at his artistry indicates as much without overstressing elements that we’ve been hearing all over the place among his peers and rivals in the American underground.
Cooper’s vocal is the main cohesive element in “Best of Me,” but not because of a weakened instrumental backbone at all. By utilizing his voice not only as a means of communicating the lyrical narrative here but as sonic reinforcement of the melodic mood in the music. The strings simmer beneath the beat of the drums as though they were bottling up tension to be released post-chorus, but they never find the same catharsis that the other components in the song do. In more ways than one, “Best of Me” is straight country in an era that has produced almost everything but, and rather than sounding like a super-oddity, it instead feels like a refreshing masterclass on the genre’s not-so-distant roots. I love the meticulousness of the arrangement, and Cooper’s execution in general, and had I not been informed differently, I would have thought he was a veteran of the studio experience. I found out about Drew Cooper just recently with the release of this single, but if this is a good sample of who he is as an artist, I’m going to be following his output closely in the next few years.
There’s more than enough in “Best of Me” to suggest that he could expand even further with acoustic material if given the right context to record it in, but whether he goes stripped-down or electric for his next studio session, I’m planning on listening just the same. We’re living in one of the most unpredictable chapters in the history of American country music, but with artists like Drew Cooper to keep the old-school ways going strong in the underground, my gut tells me that longtime fans of the genre don’t have anything to be worried about. His is a unique style, but one that has just enough familiarity with true-blue country fans to resonate in all the right ways this season.
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