When first glancing at the album cover, it’s easy to assume that one will be in for some heavy listening, what with the rather dramatic image of Ryan Cook and a name like Wrestling With Demons. Look at the liner notes, and you’ll get a completely different story. The “wrestling” part of the title is taken literally, featuring a picture of action figures in a wrestling ring. The players on the album are listed as though they’re title fights.
In case it’s not clear, Ryan Cook is a musician with a devilish sense of humour. He’s also a very talented player of country music along with a great backing band. Combining these two strengths, Cook has been able to simultaneously hold on to country music’s traditions while at the same time bringing the song’s subject material in line with the present day.
Every song on this album features either a universal theme that all can recognize or a gem of a lyric or both. There aren’t too many places where one can hear some wonderful accordion and mandolin backing a song about stalking someone on Facebook, but Wrestling with Demons is one of them.
While every song has something worth noting, just touching on a few should give a clear picture of what Cook is all about. Opener “Will You Take Me Back to Tulsa?” eases the listener into the music, telling a tale of the ugly transition that country music took in mainstream ears: “They took my songs and they hosed ‘em down/Til they got that modern country sound.” The song also pays tribute to a couple of country greats, Bob Wills and Merle Haggard.
Then there’s the aforementioned song about Facebook stalking, the aptly-named “Facebook Waltz.” The song chronicles a guy who meets a woman through Facebook, doesn’t get far from her, then begins Poking her and sending useless messages to the point where she blocks him. It’s funny to listen to, especially considering the sad tone of the music, and its gem of a line is none other than “Love must be more than screen-deep.”
“Silver Medal Blues” is a slightly more serious song, and it’s easy to relate to in its lyrics about coming just shy of victory. As one line in the song says “The thing about a winner is someone’s gotta lose.”
Then there’s the pervy but hilarious “Lulu Lemon,” a tribute to women who wear yoga pants. The song is full of double entendres and also has a great acoustic guitar beat that will at the very least leave the listener’s head bopping. It also uses autotune, which is awful 99% of the time but just adds to the humour.
“Children of the Corn” brings back the old country tradition of yodeling. But of course, this being a Ryan Cook song, he also manages to throw in lines about genetically-modified corn. The album ends off with a duet with Jennah Barry called “I Don’t Hurt Anymore,” and her wonderful vocals add a bit of flair to Cook’s incredible vocal range. The epitome of class, the album ends with Barry saying “Mr. Ryan Cook. Goodnight y’all.”
Also look out for references to the perils of technology and a name drop of Andre the Giant.
In Wrestling with Demons, Ryan Cook delivers a smackdown of what’s expected in country music, and the album just might be a TKO.
Top Tracks: “Facebook Waltz”; “Children of the Corn”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*