Wednesday, March 20, 2019

My Secret Weapon: My Wife, Accordionist Extraordinaire Lenore Cooley

Did you know that my released albums contain 7 songs that feature the awesome accordion playing of my lovely wife Lenore?

So far, they are:
Three Mariachis
Cherchez La Femme
If I Had Time
Smitten With The Mitten
Good For Me
Something About New Orleans
Any Port In A Storm

These are among my best songs because of her serving as my live-in home studio session musician wife.  I hope there will be more in the future.

That's not the only way she's helped me out though.  She's also helped answer some of my music theory questions, and painstakingly listened to countless songs to advise me on which were release-worthy.  Additionally, she has augmented my sound with contributions of background vocals on a few, some lyric editing suggestions on a few, a true co-write on one, flute on one, keyboards on two, and marimba on three.  In later releases, I play the marimba and piano myself, but only because she's helped me along enough with advice to get me started to be able to do so.  Needless to say, the Lenore factor cannot be underestimated when it comes to my music.

One instrument she'll never be able to teach me to play on my own recordings, however, is the accordion.  It's intimidating, complicated, and fascinating.

It's one of the greatest-sounding instruments there is though to me, and she's one of the best.  Many of my fans agree and are demanding more.  In fact, it automagically skyrockets my songs up many quality levels.

She has the ability to listen to my guitar chord progressions and vocal melodies, and by ear know exactly what to play without any sheet music.  It's extraordinary, and she's a genius.

First thing you think of when you hear the word accordion?  It's likely to be polka. My music is pretty far from falling into that category.

If you're from around where I'm from, your only exposure, if any, is likely to have occurred when you went to Frankenmuth, Michigan for a family-style chicken dinner.  Unfortunately, it really does seem to be old people's music.

If you're pretty old, Lawrence Welk for sure, or maybe even Myron Floren may come to mind.

You may be surprised to know that there are probably artists you've heard of as a non-polka fan that actually have accordion as a part of their sound, if only occasionally.

If you're more of a mainstream popular music fan, yet more than just a casual fan, and are middle-aged, you may know that The Band, John Mellencamp, Bruce Hornsby, and  Bruce Springsteen have featured the accordion.

A little younger than that and if you like alternative or indie rock, and you might've heard Barenaked Ladies or Arcade Fire playing it.

If you're in that same age range, and a fan of MTV and parody, you've probably heard of Weird Al Yankovic, and you definitely know accordion is a part of what he does.  If you're even geekier than that, and/or a childrens music fan, you may know They Might Be Giants' music has accordion.

If you're into Norteno, you know about bands like Los Tigres del Norte.

If you know about zydeco, you've heard of Clifton Chenier or Buckwheat Zydeco.

If into more of a celtic vibe, you know about The Poges and Dropkick Murphys.

If you're more of a pseudo-intellectual type, you might know Tom Waits has incorporated it.
If it's folk punk you like, maybe you know Ramshackle Glory or Gogol Bordello.

There, I've given you a great starter list as an introduction to artists whose non-polka music has accordion.

You can now be sure to add Lenore Cooley to that list.  I'm not saying she can't also nail many a polka tune - she is in fact a master virtuoso at that genre as well.

I played an early demo tape to my young nephew once who said "all the songs sound the same" or something to that effect.  Upon further digging, I came to understand what he was really referring to was the basic signature core sound the songs had of my singing voice combined with my acoustic guitar playing, acoustic bass playing, and minimalist drums & percussion.

He made a good point, and that sparked the idea that I needed to get some more variety in there.  Although I've since ventured farther into the territories of different genres and added other instruments such as harmonica and ukulele, the light bulb finally went off to get my secret weapon involved!

Again, the Scott Cooley songs list featuring Lenore Cooley on accordion are:

  • Three Mariachis
  • Cherchez La Femme
  • If I Had Time
  • Smitten With The Mitten
  • Good For Me
  • Something About New Orleans
  • Any Port In A Storm  

Although I've been sure to give proper liner note attribution, I've never given her the credit she deserves for such an important contribution to the Scott Cooley sound, helping me become a better songwriter and musician, adding to the instrumentation variety, and helping me really improve the quality of the recordings.   I hope this post will make some amends in that regard.

Stay tuned for a future album release with even more Lenore!