Elizabeth Cook (first set) McGonigel's Mucky Duck March 11, 2011
Rocks Off always appreciates a country artist who comes by their tales of low lives and high times honestly, and Elizabeth Cook certainly qualifies. The offspring of a mother who honed her musical skills in Appalachia and a father who served time in a federal penitentiary for running moonshine for the Mob, Cook's disarming stage presence and deceptively sweet between song banter occasionally masks the depth of emotion and - sometimes - pain in her songs.
Playing to a standing-room crowd at the Duck Friday night, Cook plus guitarist/husband/co-songwriter Tim Carroll and ex-Midnight Oil bassist Bones Hillman played a lengthy set that relied heavily on material from her latest release, Welder, and was well received by the crowd, even though some (your reviewer included) had to cut out due to a curiously extended intermission between sets.
Rocks Off got out first taste of Cook's sensibilities and our initial knowledge of her... interesting family background from her weekday morning "Apron Strings" radio show on Sirius/XM. Until we canceled our subscription, that is. Cook's bona fides are above reproach, and she brought those credentials to the fore with songs like "Heroin Addict Sister" and "Girlfriend Tonight."
We probably found it more surprising than we should have that she had such a relaxed rapport with the audience, but it's easy to forget she's been doing this since she was four, and has been writing songs for other artists since the late 1990s.
Cook also goes further than merely giving lip service to her musical forebears, acknowledging the influence of the likes of Merle, Dolly, and Charlie Louvin (for whom she haD a touching tribute) by playing some of their lesser-known cuts. She has a voice like Dolly's, when she lays back on the twang, that is.
It was observed by... others in attendance that Cook could lay off the shtick: the occasionally overly affected twang and "aw shucks" approach and get a little more serious. And there may be some truth to that, but when one considers the hoops a female C&W artist has to jump through to get noticed in today's market, Aftermath is willing to forgive a little preciousness.
What's harder to forgive is a 45-minute intermission. Aftermath doesn't know if the Duck figured her set was too long for the customary two shows or what, but the lengthy gap between Cook's sets meant we had to duck out around 9:30, for a show that started two hours previous. Sorry Elizabeth, our babysitter has an early curfew.
That aside, we hope Elizabeth Cook finds her way to greater mainstream success soon. She's an fine enough artist in her own right, and one with the chops to, potentially, stand up with the greats. It'd be nice if she could get out of their shadow and make some history of her own.
Personal Bias: I love Dolly, and Cook is about the same age as our wife, so we're pretty predisposed to look favorably upon her.
The Crowd: Pretty old. We were actually surprised to be on the younger end of the Duck's demographic Friday night.
Overheard In The Crowd: "He's pretty tall for a bass player."
Random Notebook Dump: "'If I wake up married, I'll have to annul it/ Right now my hands are in his mullet,' from 'El Camino,' are some of the greatest lyrics of all time."
SET LIST (PARTIAL)
Today I Started Loving You Again (Merle Haggard) Times Are Tough In Rock 'n Roll Don't Go Borrowing Trouble He Got No Heart Girlfriend Tonight El Camino Yes To Booty Heroin Addict Sister My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy (Dolly Parton) Cash on the Barrelhead (Louvin Brothers) Ole Slew Foot (Johnny Horton) All the Time Black Land Farmer (Frankie Miller) Mama's Funeral