One night back in 2010, I was driving home from who knows where, listening to Dallas’ public radio station KKXT, when a song came on that grabbed me by my ears and my soul. With one of the most impeccable grooves I’d ever heard, complemented by this warm and soul-filled voice evocative of Bill Withers, I frantically searched for a pen and something to write on so I could jot down the name of the song. By the time I arrived home the name of the song and the artist were still a mystery, so I fired up my Mac and went directly to the radio station’s website to view the evening’s playlist. Finally, I struck gold: Citizen Cope’s “Healing Hands.” The very next day, I hit my favorite local music store and copped Cope’s latest release, The Rainwater LP. Over the next few months I would work backwards in his discography until I had all of his works, and later that year I had the opportunity to see him live for the first time at Dallas’ House of Blues with Gary Clark, Jr. as his opener.
Brooklyn-based Cope, born Clarence Greenwood, grew up living in places like Greenville, MS; Memphis, TN; Austin, TX; and Washington, D.C. His musical style is as complex and nuanced as any of the cities and towns where he’s lived, with rhythms and beats pulled from the blues, soul, R&B, and hip-hop song book and riffs and hooks inspired by the best in rock n roll and folk. With the release of his new album One Lovely Day, Cope is bringing his tour of the same name to venues across the country, giving his devoted following the proper doses of the tunes they’ve come to love and the new material.
The One Lovely Day Tour stopped through Oakland, CA’s Fox Theatre on September 29, and although the venue wasn’t quite filled to capacity the fans on the floor and in the seats were more than ready when Cope and his band took the stage just before 9PM. There was no opening band, just a shuffle of mellow Marley tunes wafting through the air, barely audible by most concert standards. As soon as Cope grabbed his guitar and approached the mic, the crowd went wild. Kicking off the set with new songs like his latest single “One Lovely Day,” “Something to Believe In,” and “DFW,” Cope let the music speak for itself as he did very little talking between songs. I couldn’t help but notice how quiet the show was–the audience was definitely appreciative, especially when Cope delved into older material like “Hurricane Waters,” “Bullet and a Target,” and “Let the Drummer Kick.” But whereas most live performances are punctuated by an incessant stream of piercing cheers, save for the obnoxious yelling of the guys seated directly behind me, Cope’s audience raised its collective voice only to sing along and drop the requisite “WOOOOOOO!” at the end of a song. Cope himself is so unassuming on stage, none of that rock star posturing. Even in a venue the size of the Fox Theatre it felt as though we were sitting in his living room enraptured in an intimate musical exhibition. While the band took a break, Cope treated the room to acoustic performances of gems such as “D’Artagnan’s Theme,” “If There’s Love,” “200,000,” and the crowd favorite “Pablo Picasso” (which the guys behind me had been loudly requesting all night long!).
Citizen Cope’s brand of soulful rockin’ blues, masterful song craft, and stellar production is absolutely irresistible. If you’re already a fan, then I’m preaching to the converted. But if you’ve yet to experience Cope’s rich tone, head nod-worthy pocket, and illustrative lyrics that in one breath have you preoccupied with the object of your desire (as in the song “More Than It Seems”) and imagining a 40-foot woman in the next (see the aforementioned “Pablo Picasso”), then it’s definitely worth checking out this extraordinary artist’s body of work.
One Lovely Day is available on iTunes and at select brick and mortar wreckastows. Visit citizencope.com for more information, to listen to tracks from the new record as well as his classic LPs, and for tour updates.
Rhonda Nicole is an independent singer/songwriter, lovin’ and livin’ in Oakland, CA, currently performing with San Francisco-based soul band Midtown Social. Download her EP “Nuda Veritas” on CDBaby and iTunes, check her out on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @wildhoneyrock.