McGonigel's Mucky Duck
June 26, 2016
I picked the wrong month to quit drinking.
That's what we in the
journalism online review business call an "evergreen" comment. It's applicable at just about any time because it seems like yet another terrible thing is constantly happening, sending us reaching for the bottle.
But drinking can also enhance certain forms of entertainment. Now, you can probably make it through the 200th listen of your Hamilton soundtrack without a glass of wine, and a vodka tonic or three won't necessarily complement a Taylor Swift show (unless you're a parent), but an Elizabeth Cook gig definitely goes down well with a couple of cocktails.
Cook came to the Duck riding high on accolades for her latest album, Exodus of Venus. As reported right here last week, the record helped Cook work through a staggering amount of loss and a number of personal struggles. She's enjoyed a fair degree of acclaim ever since the release of 2010's Welder, but Venus may very well be the album that puts Cook on a lot more maps.
Rocks Off caught the second of Cook's two sets at the Duck last night. Onstage — at least sartorially speaking — she lives up to the outlaw country image that made her a popular host on Sirius XM (and apparently turned David Letterman into a big fan) Clad in cutoff jean shorts over black stockings and wearing what your fashion-illiterate writer would call a "kimono" over it, Cook reminded you a little of Stevie Nicks, if Nicks sang about junkies and missing children instead of fairy queens, and didn't warble so goddamn much.
As we've noted before, Cook's tales come from an honest place, which gives her songs that much more impact. The powerful "Tabitha Tuder's Mama" tells the story of a girl who went missing from her old neighborhood, and how the family's poverty meant she inevitably fell through the cracks, while "Dharma Gate" earns its title from a term Cook learned in therapy during a particularly troubled period a couple of years ago.
Just about all the cuts from Exodus of Venus were big hits with the crowd. One of Cook's strengths is the ability to wring humor from dark material like "Methadone Blues," the sequel to Welder's "Heroin Addict Sister," or "Straightjacket Love," a song matter-of-factly about how "bitches can be crazy." Even so, it's easy to see the progression since Welder. Cook had to do a great deal of growing up in a short amount of time, and the new tracks' poignancy speaks to that. She still doesn't apologize for her past, and doesn't need to, but there's a new maturity to her songs that gives them even greater impact.
Cook's guitarist Dexter Green was co-writer on a number of songs on Exodus, as well as the album's producer, and more than that, his solos added some welcome bite. There wasn't a lot of room to move on the Duck's stage for Cook, Green or bassist Scott Bolan and drummer Tanner Jacobsen, but then, they weren't on it for very long.
Because as we've also noted before, Cook has interesting views on stage timing. Whether it was the nearly hourlong intermission in 2010 or last night's set, which wrapped up after barely an hour and 20 minutes, she doesn't appear interested in Springsteen-ian marathons. On one hand, it's too bad, because her material is more than strong enough and her presence enjoyable enough to warrant lengthier outings.
On the other, at least we were able to watch the Game of Thrones finale. And finally get a beer.
Personal Bias: Exodus of Venus will be on a lot of year-end Top 10 lists, including mine.
The Crowd: Drinking more than I was, goddamn it.
Overheard In the Crowd: "There are more Fitbits here than tattoos."
Random Notebook Dump: "Non-alcoholic beer is a kind of methadone, isn't it?"
Broke Down in London on the M25
Exodus of Venus
Tabitha Tuder's Mama
Sometimes It Takes Balls to Be a Woman
Rock N Roll Man
Magnolia (JJ Cale cover)
Orange Blossom Trail
Elizabeth Cook plays Tomball's Main Street Crossing (111 W. Main) tonight at 8 p.m.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.