Best known for his associations with Hiss Golden Messenger and freak folk band Megafaun Phil Cook has also spent time as the musical director for The Blind Boys of Alabama and worked with Mavis Staples. It’s the latter names who spring to mind as one spins People Are My Drug which is steeped in gospel music and New Orleans rhythms, the impressive array of female singers who whoop, holler and testify with a soulful abandon giving the disc its signature sound.
From the swamp like Steam Powered Blues to the closing cover of Allen Toussaint’s Life, Cook almost takes a back seat, aside from his Pops Staples’ like guitar licks. Instead a layered chorus of voices are to the fore recalling the likes of The Edwin Hawkins singers or indeed The Staples with Tide of Life probably the most uplifting example here. Even Randy Newman’s He Gives Us All His Love is transformed into a devotional shout out to the Lord, the harmonies evangelising as if this were all one big tent meeting. Toussaint’s Life meanwhile ends in a horn fuelled Crescent City bacchanalia.
People Are My Drug is a joyous album which bears comparisons with the work of Ry Cooder as Cook celebrates an important strand of American roots music.