This album is described as "another love letter to the world" and the CD comes in a beautifully crafted 132-page booklet containing lyrics, chord charts, inspirational quotations, background notes and photos taken during this Canadian troubadour's rambles round the globe.
For his 6th album, Scott Cook is accompanied by trusty band mates, The Second Chances - Melissa Walker (upright bass) and Bramwell Park (banjo and mandolin) - who joined him and other pals for a relaxed recording session on Mayne Island, British Columbia.
The ten songs of "hope despair and the possibility of heroism" begin with a 'this is where I am at now' statement of intent. The title track is both a tribute to Woody Guthrie and a personal account of the jobs Cook has done and places he's been. In this, and throughout the album, he ponders the unanswerable question: "How do we make a family out of humankind?".
The message of Dogs, And Kids is that, as grown-ups, we aspire to be "bulletproof daydream manifesters" but too often get side-tracked by worry, gossip and pessimism. In this context, children and pets seem to have the a better handle on life. Crucially, the fact that they manage to be more honest and less complicated or cynical leads Cook to conclude "I'm a better person when I'm hanging with dogs and kids, got one thing on their mind at a time, can't keep nothing hid".
Elsewhere, the artist's religious viewpoint is presented from a resolutely contemporary perspective. On If He Showed Up Now he imagines what kind of reception Jesus would get if the much delayed second coming finally came about.
For Walk That Lonesome Valley he updates an traditional spiritual with verses about three past and present day American heroes - 19th century equal rights and anti-slave campaigner Sojourner Truth, radical peace-loving priest Father Daniel Berrigan and transexual whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
Cook further shows he's on the right side of history for Fellas, Get Out The Way, a light-hearted but serious affirmation of feminism: "If there's any hope for this show, we've got to bring on the matriarchy".
On other tunes - Alberta, You're Breaking My Heart, is a personification of his home province, Careful With My Heart is an adapted cover of a song by Heather Styka (tweaked to give it a more male perspective), and Your Sweet Time is a down to earth love song.
After a goofy "energetic romp" of Kitchen Dance Party On, he brings proceedings to a close with Learning To Let Go, inspired by Bob Dylan's 'Restless Farewell'.
And there we have it. Ten nicely varied songs of living and learning which illustrate how tough it is to be a dreamer these days. As Cook writes in his introductory essay: "It's hard to be a person who cares, living in a society that doesn't".
If you count yourself among the carers, I'd recommend seeking out this album. If you're on the other side, listen anyway and take some good advice from a man who knows.
Scott Cook's website