This, the second solo album of Poco guitarist Paul Cotton’s career, comes a decade after his first, and, in many ways, is so radically different from that original solo album, that it could arguably be called the first real Paul Cotton solo release.

The reason for that is, unlike 1990’s "Changing Horses," this record focuses on Cotton’s songs and sounds, instead of technical and studio brilliance. As such, it has more of Cotton’s trademark singing and playing about his beloved warm climes of the Southwest and Caribbean, subjects that have always populated his best work, with Poco and on his own.

The record also contains reworking of two of his finest Poco songs, the long-time classic "Bad Weather," still a staple of the band’s live shows some 30 years after its original release on the "From the Inside" album, and "Ride the Country," here given the slower arrangement that was used in many live shows in the 1980s, rather than the atmospheric steel guitar/guitar electric tradeoff of its initial performance on the "Good Feelin’ to Know" album. Both clearly show that Cotton knows how to inject new ideas into older material, without losing the original ideas of the songs.

The bulk of "Firebird," though, is made up of new songs, showcasing Cotton’s wonderful, laid back way of delivering the warmth of those locales that he loves, all the time giving a listener a chance to visit there as well, all without leaving the comfort of a CD player. One listen to tracks like the title song, fellow Poco member Rusty Young’s "Across a Painted Sky," "All the Way to You," and the island inflected instrumental "Carnival" shows that Cotton’s music and songwriting continues to grow and reflect those warm areas, and the people and the love that inhabit those places that interest him.

If the strength of "Firebird" is any judge, hopefully it won’t be another decade before the next Paul Cotton solo album.

- Mark T. Gould