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Inquiring Minds: Elizabeth Cook on Rodney Crowell, Florida Folk and "Apron Strings"

Most mornings, Rocks Off wakes up to Elizabeth Cook's country-as-cornbread drawl on her Outlaw Country satellite-radio program, "Apron Strings" (Sirius 63, XM 13, 5-9 a.m. Mondays). On her 2007 LP Balls - produced by the Houston Kid himself, Rodney Crowell - Cook was as frank and charming on songs like "Times Are Tough In Rock and Roll" and "Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be a Woman." Cook recently appeared in the stage musical The Conway Twitty Story as the Arkansas-born crooner's daughter Joanie; her next album, this time produced by Don Was (Willie Nelson, Rolling Stones), is due in March. Rocks Off spoke with the rural Florida native earlier this week as she traveled from her home in Nashville to Texas, where she opened shows for Guy Clark in Austin and Dallas in addition to her date with Dwight Yoakam at the Arena Theater Saturday. Rocks Off: Are you as chatty and homespun in real life as you are on "Apron Strings"? Elizabeth Cook: I think so. I don't know. I haven't really had the time or energy to develop any persona that I would adopt for purposes of the radio show, so yes. RO: Do you use any notes for your airbreaks, or are they completely off the cuff? EC: It's completely off the cuff. No notes. I did at first. [Cook has been doing "Apron Strings" a little more than two years.] RO: Tell me a little bit about the new record that's due in March. EC: I just made a record about two weeks ago, or maybe longer, with Don Was. We tracked 14 things, most of which I wrote by myself and played guitar on, which I'm proud of all that, and used my band. Don just came to Nashville with his engineer, and we just had so much fun making that record - I just didn't want it to ever end. Now we just have to go back and tidy up a bit and finish mixing, which will happen the first week in January. I think it's going to be out in mid-April. RO: Was it intimidating at all working with someone as legendary as Don Was? EC: For me, it was a little bit shocking. I thought, you know, I kept expecting it to not happen, but it did. He is such a docile soul that he diffuses that immediately when you meet him. RO: What are you singing about this time? EC: I have a song called "Heroin Addict Sister," and I have a song called "Mama's Funeral," and I have a song called "El Camino." There's a whole bunch. Different things - singing about love and life, just like everybody else. RO: What was Rodney Crowell like as a boss? EC: He's great. He's a daddy. He's got a bunch of daughters, and he knew exactly how to handle me, I think. He's extremely experienced and wise and soft-spoken and smart. RO: Are you interested in doing any more acting after this Conway Twitty musical? EC: Very much. Yes. I love it. I've been reading for things. RO: How would you rate being a moonshiner's daughter versus being a coal miner's daughter? EC: Ha ha. Well, it's a few years later, different times I guess, a little further along in the Industrial Revolution. So that. I didn't grow up in a holler, I grew up in a sandy little Florida neighborhood. My mom's from Charleston, W. Va. Just Southern country people, as is the case with many Floridians that live inland in the swamps and the fields out there, where they grow a lot of watermelons and cantaloupes and stuff. With Dwight Yoakam, 7 p.m. Saturday, November 21, at the Arena Theatre, 7326 Southwest Fwy., 713-772-5900 or www.arenahouston.com.

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