Corinne Cook’s third album Yes I Can kicks off with a blast of near blues rock. “Last Thing to Go” depicts serious business lyrically, but there’s a playful vivaciousness to the song’s invective lyrics Cook makes great use of as a singer. The addition of harmonica underlines the song’s blues influences and the rhythm section’s physical sound provides the song with its necessary ballast to leave a mark on listeners. Cook definitely has a love for classic country weepers and we get her first offering in that vein with the intro for “One Box of Tissues”, but the melancholy piano and aching voice soon segue into a much more playful mid-tempo romp. Songs like this are in the “smile to keep from crying” school of country and blues influenced popular music, but this has the crossover appeal Cook aims for in a lot of her music. Her commercial aspirations never undercut the musical quality, however, as the song’s powerful sweep carries us away.
The album’s title song is a tribute of sorts to what empowered women can accomplish in a society where they’ve often been eyed as second class citizens, but the message driving the song doesn’t dilute its capacity to entertain. Cook takes four commonly know examples from the 20th century history – Amelia Earhart, Sally Ride, Rosa Parks, and Susan B. Anthony – and holds them up as examples for what cutting against the norm can accomplish. It’s an exhortative tune, but never too heavy handed, and definitely showcases Cook drawing from her own experiences to make more of an impact on listeners. The chorus is, naturally, the song’s signature payoff moment and Cook fully realizes its potential. Her turn with “Trying Not To Die” has a studied elegance expanding on the inklings we heard of her love for balladry with the earlier “One Box of Tissues”. Never mistake Cook’s songs for purist traditional country, they often aren’t, but even songs like this are rife with echoes of the style’s past. The stark emotional weight of the song is an added bonus and her first rate vocals bring that home with a mix of urgency and artful restraint.
“Devil’s Heaven” is a character study of sorts and one of the album’s best songs. It has a simmering country rock feel with an emphatic vocal from Cook. Her chorus vocal is double tracked and enhanced with some effective backing vocals, but it doesn’t mar the passionate way her voice grabs a hold of the song’s musical high point. A fiery guitar solo comes in the song’s second half but it’s brief and to the point. “Mr. Mechanic” has a little bit of that same country rock feel, but the emphasis is much more on the rock side of the spectrum and there’s a propulsive quality to the song that makes it a fist-pumping listen. It’s one of the more personal songs for Cook on Yes I Can and she throws herself into it with the expected abandon.
She ends the album with the gentle acoustic strains of “Those Few Dreams”. The lyrical guitar work weaves a delicate mood over the slow march of percussion and the lilting shading Cook brings to her singing makes this a dramatic, deeply felt listening experience. It never risks sentimentality while still expressing great affection for its subject matter. It’s a memorable final curtain for Cook’s third album and solidifies her standing as one of the foremost singers working in this style today.