Eric Brace & Peter Cooper: You Don’t Have to Like Them Both

Those who can’t do… teach.

You’ve heard that old expression before. The idea behind it is that it’s easy to study something and know how to do it, yet still lack the ability to actually do it yourself. That same logic has often also been used to describe music critics as failed musicians who now write about the music they lacked the ability to make themselves.

That logic almost makes sense, until you learn the stories of Eric Brace and Peter Cooper. Brace is a former music writer for The Washington Post and the longtime frontman for the DC based band Last Train Home. Cooper writes about music for Nashville’s major daily newspaper, The Tennessean. The two met in Nashville a few years back and found themselves to be sort of kindred spirits. There aren’t a lot of music critics out there who are also taken seriously as musicians.

Brace moved from DC to Nashville in 2004, and he and Cooper became fast friends. They spent quite a bit of time together playing guitar, drinking whiskey, and listening to old vinyl records of Tom T. Hall, Charley Pride, and the Seldom Scene. When Brace started his own record company he signed Cooper as an artist and released his debut album, Mission Door, in 2008. After that, it became a no-brainer for the two to record an album together.

When it came time to record that album, Brace and Cooper went back to their record collection for inspiration. They found a wonderful collection of songs from writers such as Kris Kristofferson (“Just the Other Side of Nowhere”) and Paul Kennerly (“The First in Line”). They also called upon friends like David Olney (“Omar’s Blues #2”), Todd Snider (“Yesterdays and Used to Be’s”), and Jim Lauderdale (“I Know Better Now”) for material. Brace and Cooper trade lead and harmony vocals in front of a stellar band that captures the rootsy feel of the songs perfectly. Kenny Vaughn, Jen Gunderman, Tim Carroll, Richard Bennett, and Tim O’Brien all lend their accomplished hands to the effort.

Lest you forget… before they were musicians, Eric Brace and Peter Cooper were both writers themselves, and they both take their turns at songwriting on this record. The geography lesson in a song, “Denali, Not McKinley,” is a co-write with Cooper and Todd Snider. Brace, Cooper and Jim Lauderdale worked together on the shuffling, “Lucky Bones.”

The two songs I’m highlighting here today are both originals as well.

Brace’s “I Know a Bird” is possibly the strongest song on the album and will be especially poignant to anyone who is awaiting the return of a loved one from overseas. Tim O’Brien provides the banjo.

Cooper’s contribution is “The Man Who Loves to Hate.” This is one of those songs I was talking about yesterday with a bit of a twist at the end. It’s not a love song by any means, but it’s fun to see the subject of the song put in his place at the end.

You Don’t Have to Like Them Both is available from Red Beet Records. Eric Brace and Peter Cooper will appear on the WDVX Blue Plate Special live from The Square Room on April 10th.

Eric Brace & Peter Cooper: I Know a Bird (Buy Album)
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper: The Man Who Loves to Hate (Buy Album)

2 Responses to “Eric Brace & Peter Cooper: You Don’t Have to Like Them Both”

  1. I’ve been meaning to pick up some Peter Cooper – I enjoy his journalistic reviews/commentary… and of course love Thin Wild Mercury, a song about Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan Peter co-wrote with Todd Snider (on TS’s The Devil You Know)…

  2. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever read any of Cooper’s writing, and I was not aware of his music until this album. I am now a fan.Thanks for pointing out the further Todd Snider connection.

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