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Hollie Cook

Hollie Cook

Photo by Ollie Grove

Live in Portland July 20, 2018 | Doug Fir

Hollie Cook is the kind of artist whose presence seems fated, the kind who couldn’t have done anything but sing, even if she tried. It’s a good thing, too. Cook’s latest album, Vessel Of Love, has her floating smoothly across a sea of dub and rocksteady rhythms, reaching back to the ‘70s and ‘80s for songwriting inspiration, though with a contemporary ear for production, creating a sound both fresh and timeless.

Daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook and singer Jeni Cook, Hollie grew up steeped in music, and cut her teeth with the re-formed British punk legends The Slits, whose sound was by then itself straying into the realm of reggae. Her solo work shows that range of influence in its depth, though that depth is manifested mostly in the subtle ways her rhythms and changes stand apart from others in her class.

There’s also the smooth, implacable quality to her voice, which drives the often-spacey, reverb-heavy riffs of guitar, synthesizer and horns in an unexpectedly steady way. It remains central to each song, as do themes of love, perseverance, loss, and a sense of communion through music.

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This sense of communion doesn’t come from nowhere–collaborators on the album include producer Youth, Prince Fatty, Jah Wobble, Keith Levine and many more, and Cook has repeatedly spoken of their influences as central to the project, everybody lending a bit of inspiration and direction to Vessel Of Love.

The songs, then, become vessels themselves, containing what has been for Cook a catharsis, an outpouring of honesty, and though the process of singing them may not be a cure, it’s a way of transporting those feelings away, to a place where with each listen, we return.