Album Review of
Matters of the Heart

Written by Joe Ross
July 27, 2022 - 10:26am EDT
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Tony Rook hails from North Carolina but currently makes his home in Minnesota. He started playing rock music as a teenager, then turned to folk music. In his early 20s, Tony had a folk duo called Riggs and Rook. He then learned to play banjo from Bobby Hicks. In North Carolina, Tony performed with the Eno Ramblers and also had a group called Rook and Wood, releasing one album Labor of Love. In 2006, he moved to Minnesota and joined Dick Kimmel & Co. as their guitarist. In 2016, he released a solo project called The Road Back Home, in 2018 Reflections, and his Tony Rook Band now follows that with Matters of the Heart.

Songwriting remains a focus for Tony, and this album features six original contemporary songs that he had a hand in including “You Never Said Goodbye,” “I Will Pray For You,” “In a Room of Strangers,” “That Song That Says Goodbye,” “You’ve Been on my Mind” and “Waitin’ on the Rain.” He also wrote the bouncy instrumental “Shot in the Dark.” His contemporary bluegrass compositions are largely based on personal experiences.

In addition to Tony on guitar, the rest of the Tony Rook Band are Graham Sones (banjo, vocals), Terry Johnson (bass, vocals), Derek Birkeland (mandolin) and Tom Schaefer (fiddle). Derek sings lead on a song written by his dad called “Following this Road.” The album’s title cut was written by award-winning bluegrass songwriter Louisa Branscomb, as was “Lord I’m Blue” and “Last Night I Fell for You (All Over Again).”

Overall, the Tony Rook Band’s bluegrass creates plenty of emotional connection and conveys many moods, all reflecting Matters of the Heart, and allows each band member a chance to demonstrate their skill, dexterity, versatility and finesse. The project was undertaken to keep busy during the pandemic, and Rook produced, recorded and mixed the music that clearly shows this regional Minnesota band has the chops and drive to go far. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)