And if a song needs no accompaniment, Cooney will just sing it a cappella in a voice that is unique. If you hear him once, you'll always recognize that still-boyish voice, which, depending on the song, is front-porch-late-night-don't-wake-the-kids crooning, or exuberant, laughing, and whooping. Sometimes it even sounds as though it's about to crack, but it never does. Cooney's voice is the Everyman voice; he's a singing Regular Joe no put-on patina, no attempt to stick to a particular style, to sound like anyone else, or even to sound ordinary. What you hear in Michael Cooney's voice is the songs and his love of the songs.
Whether he's singing something you've maybe heard too many times, like "Sloop John B," or Leadbelly's "Fannin Street," which you can never hear often enough, or a song by an unknown contemporary writer Michael met somewhere in his wide travels, or a song so obscure you will probably never hear anyone else sing it, Michael will help you hear the song, sing it with him, and maybe even go home and learn it for yourself, so you can sing it again.
[Originally published in August, 2003.]