Austin Albums

Amy Cook lets go, welcomes Plant and others on new Summer Skin

Amy Cook lets go, welcomes Plant and others on new Summer Skin

Austin Photo Set: News_Chad Swiatecki_amy cook_aug 2012_summer skin
Summer Skin album cover Album art by Alexandra Valenti

You don’t say “no” to a legend.

When former Led Zeppelin vocalist and Austin transplant Robert Plant offered to sing on Austin folk singer Amy Cook’s song “It’s Gonna Rain,” there was zero chance of keeping him out of the recording booth.

But Cook laughs when asked what would’ve happened — perish the thought — “If Robert was having an off day and kind of duffed the track?”

“Of course I would’ve said ‘Get out of there. I don’t care who you are,’” Cook jokes, clearly amused at the notion that the voice behind “Heartbreaker,” “Stairway To Heaven” and too many classics to name would be anything but a phenomenal guest vocalist.

“I can’t even imagine that scenario. He’s got such an extensive knowledge of any type of music, he can really make his voice do anything he wants it to.”

Plant’s appearance on “It’s Gonna Rain” makes that song the biggest talking point of Cook’s new album Summer Skin, but it doesn’t overshadow the rest of what’s there, which is an assortment of smartly crafted, revealing pop-folk songs.

Cook’s California roots are apparent throughout, as a sunny and refreshing mood dominates the album even on songs like the title track that finds the singer dealing with growth and personal transformation — that effective image device of shedding a skin — even if doing so can be difficult in spots.

“That one was the toughest,” Cook said of the song and her writing process for the new album.

“I had like 20 pages of notes and 15 verses for it and it was something like seven months before I had a song I loved. It’s about emancipation and the idea of being liberated, and when you grow up and look back on those times a lot of it feels like the seasons changing.”

Cook told CultureMap the new album, which comes two years after her Alejandro Escovedo-produced “Let The Light In,” is a departure because of a recording process that saw her turn all instrumental duties over to a group of session players that included Austin’s David Garza on guitar and multi-time Grammy nominee Meshell Ndegeocello on bass.

Cook said she backed away from playing on the album because she trusted the people she’d brought in and because doing so allowed her to focus on the overall direction and scope of the record.

“It was really easy to let go, and it felt like a gift that they were coming into my life — so I wanted to see what they came up with,” she said.

“When you have someone like David Garza who can come in on guitar… that’s a great feeling. Having that allowed me to keep my ear on everything and I felt like I had more of a producer role. All of the songs on this record definitely benefited from me having more perspective as we were working on them.”

You can catch Cook promoting Summer Skin twice this week in Austin: first on Tuesday the 28th (Victory Grill), and second on Friday the 31st (Waterloo Records).