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  • Cockahoop is an adjective defining someone who's extremely happy or excited about something. Cerys Matthews is definitely excited about something, and if the title of her debut album doesn't alone express that, the 13-song set of originals and traditional folk songs should do it. Three years since leaving Catatonia and moving beyond her celebrity-starved way of life, Matthews starts from scratch for her first solo album. Cockahoop is classic Cerys in the way the former pop star pin-up remains her quirky, sweet self; however, it's completely different from anything she's done with Catatonia. She's now a Nashville cowgirl, but don't assume Cockahoop is a country album. Producer Bucky Baxter (Steve Earle, Ryan Adams, Bob Dylan) doesn't let Matthews fall into any one genre. She's such a vocal eccentric, she doesn't belong anywhere, but that's the beauty of her talent. While Baxter put the finishing touches on his recording studio in Whites Creek, TN, Matthews absorbed rustic conditions in the Southern backwoods. Having no running water, kitchen, or bathroom not only required her to savor her new, raw surroundings, it led to Matthews writing her most earnest and honest songs of her career thus far. Her newfound confidence can be enjoyed on the dynamic folk-flavored "Louisiana" and the bittersweet melody of "Only a Fool." Honoring her Welsh roots on the "Arglwydd Dyma Fi" hymn is true to her essence as an artist, but it's the high-spirited personal moments where Cockahoop truly shines. Cellos and acoustic guitars dance throughout the innocence of "Caught in the Middle" whereas a silvery interlude of violins leads to the high lonesomeness of "Ocean." She's quite thoughtful in her songwriting; her lyrics are simple and true to life. Even her versions of the Roger Cook-penned track "Chardonnay" and the Handsome Family's "Weightless Again" could be her own. Cockahoop wasn't meant to be Matthews' reinvention as an artist. It was about her making an album that meant something to her. Cockahoop is as pure as it comes. Any kind of expectation for Matthews to resume any kind of career in music won't withstand the goodness that is Cockahoop. Such a departure is far greater than anyone could have imagined for Cerys Matthews. ~ MacKenzie Wilson
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