Coco Love Alcorn may not be a household name in music yet but it’s not for any lack of effort. Alcorn, daughter of jazz musician John Alcorn, has built a loyal and enthusiastic following through a combination of inspired songwriting, a warm and charismatic stage presence, and tireless touring. Coco returned to the Silverton Gallery on her latest of many cross-Canada tours on May 18, this time promoting her latest album Play.
Having seen Coco perform here at least three times now I can say without hesitation that one is unlikely to come away from one of her shows without a warm glow. Coco’s strength lies in a double threat: her amazingly soulful voice, with its precise pitch and vibrato control, and her seemingly effortless ability to spin out songs with real staying power. She’s one of the few among the current bumper crop of singer-songwriters who understands the structure of the popular song well enough to combine catchy melodies with instantly memorable choruses.
This was brought home yet again in Wednesday night’s two sets, reprising Coco classics like Where Do the Robots Go When They Die, Compassion, Intellectual Boys and Revolution. Coco was nominated for songwriter of the year at last year’s East Coast Music Awards for Revolution and deservedly so. I was lucky enough to get a limited edition EP Coco released in 2007, Coco Love Solo, with the first version of this song. It’s a good choice to illustrate her ability to combine social conscience with popular songwriting without becoming ponderous or gloomy – not an easy task given the subject matter. Someone should nominate her for a John Lennon Songwriting Award, since few songs on this topic since Lennon/McCartney’s classic of the same name have so well captured the theme.
Just as impressive is Coco’s ability to combine her breezy, feel-good tone with deeper themes, probably best illustrated in Intellectual Boys. She may sound lightweight but don’t let her cheerful nature fool you – as the title of her new song Thinking Cap reminds us. Her preoccupation with cycling shows up again on Play with songs like BRC (short for Bike Rider’s Choice), reminding us of earlier songs like Fiori Modena (Coco Love Solo) and I Got a Bicycle (Joyful, 2009). In the age of climate change, she’s gently urging us to get out our human-powered wheels.
Her guitar serves not as a virtuoso instrument but as basic tonal and rhythmic underpinning, so don’t look for guitar hero stuff here. But with a voice like that, who needs it? Her vocal improv skills are as good as I’ve ever heard, spiraling from scat to hip-hop to deep down soul. Songs from the new album performed in Silverton included Troubadour’s Dream (co-written with Matt Anderson), Best Part of My Day, No Limit, and With You and You, which has been getting airplay on CBC Radio. All the new songs hold up well – clearly her originality remains undimmed.
Although her energy this time seemed slightly muted compared to previous performances I’ve seen, the woman after all just gave birth nine months ago. That she jumped back into the tour circuit so soon is testament to her innate toughness and professionalism. Coco Love Alcorn is a big enough talent for major label success, but then we wouldn’t get to keep her for ourselves – that’s the joy of the burgeoning Indie music scene. Considering that 50 percent of the artists nominated for Grammy awards this year were Indie artists, it’s a movement that has matured well.
I’d put Coco and Dominique Fraissard right at the top of my list of Indie artists. Their songs are music built to last – a rare phenomenon in this disposable age.
For more information visit http://www.cocolovealcorn.com.