on Folk & Beyond with Aer Stephen
Thursday December 2, 2010, 5:15PM
"This was a first for me. Having a conversation with a deity that is - not that I haven’t offered the invitation before - but this time one answered."
- Aer Stephen -
(Elizabeth Cook is cast as God in Elizabeth Cook’s body in the upcoming film by Jeffrey Martin, My Fool Heart)
Elizabeth Cook, the youngest of 11 half-brothers and sisters, grew up in rural Florida where her musician parents met while playing in local country bars. She is a relentless performer, touring worldwide, including well over 300 performances at The Grand Ole Opry. Cook currently hosts “Apron Strings”, weekday mornings on Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country channel. Her fan base has grown tremendously from this show and she promotes whatever she is involved with heavily on air. She is in the same circles as Willie Nelson, Justin Townes Earle, Levon Helm, Ray Wylie, & Luncinda Williams. Her latest CD, “Welder”, is the bold declaration of an uncompromising artist unafraid to be exactly who she is. Welder was produced by Don Was (Rolling Stones, Kris Kristofferson) and features guest appearances by Dwight Yoakam, Rodney Crowell and Buddy Miller.
Elizabeth Cook will be in the area for 3 shows as the calendar rolls into December. On Wednesday the 1st at Ashland Coffee and Tea, just north of Richmond in Ashland, VA; on Thursday the 2nd at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA; and on Friday the 3rd at The Mockingbird, just over the Blue Ridge and into the valley in Staunton, VA. Elizabeth joins many local musicians and actors in “My Fool Heart”, which is creating quite a buzz around Charlottesville. Tentatively expected to be released in one of the upcoming 2011 film festivals, “My Fool Heart” debuts Jim Waive in the starring role, along with The Young Divorcees, the Dr. Ralph Stanley film debut, Justin Townes Earle, Merle Haggard, and legendary guitar picker and luthier Wayne Henderson. Some other familiar names to the Charlottesville scene in the cast are Mendy St. Ours, Sian Richards, Satch Huizenga, Sarah White, Seth Johnston, and The Rogan Brothers.
Put on Welder, the new album from Elizabeth Cook, and right away you get a big, bracing splash of the South. Cook does have a welder in her family. Her dad learned the trade in the Atlanta federal penitentiary, where he served time for selling moonshine. Once out of prison, he moved into a home with a backyard up against Cook's mother's, and they soon learned that both were musicians. They would play bars — or as Cook's parents called them, "bloody buckets" — and little Elizabeth would sit on a bar stool. "It was a part of our life," Cook says. "Some families now, they go to soccer games. It sounds kind of cryptic, but it wasn't. There was a lot of love and a lot of fun." Cook wasn't too interested in performing then, though her parents would occasionally drag her onstage to sing a Hank Williams song. She only got serious about music when she got older. "I had my own band and cowgirl outfits. Mother wrote songs for me to record." At first, it was very much Cook's parents' idea, though she did like the outfits. Cook says that when she was young, she didn't like the pressure of performing and that she was very shy, but anyone who sings "El Camino" gives the opposite impression, especially given the rhyme, "If I wake up married, I'll have to annul it / Right now my hands are in his mullet."
In her songs, there are tiny details that say so much. But when asked about "Heroin Addict Sister," Cook doesn't want to share any more than that. "I'm very generous with details and with lyrics — and that's all I have to say about it at this time." But the character in "Heroin Addict Sister" isn't all bleak. There are many dimensions to her. "People are complicated," Cook says. "One of my pet peeves is for things and people and their thoughts to get so polarized — that something's all black and white. It's just not true in our politics. It's just not true in our music. It's not true in our feelings. People are complex. I can't stand to see something just generalized and glossed over. It's just so insensitive."
Cook graduated from Georgia Southern University in 1996 with dual degrees in Accounting and Computer Information Systems. In 2000, she independently released “The Blue Album”; she made her major label debut in 2002 with “Hey Y'All”. But following a corporate re-structuring that left the album virtually abandoned and stagnant on sales, Elizabeth fought back with her 2004 independent release “This Side Of The Moon”, which received positive reviews from The New York Times and No Depression. Her album “Balls” was released May 2007 and produced by Rodney Crowell. It has been her most successful album to date, thanks to glowing press reviews and significant video play for the song "Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman”. “Welder” is her 2010 release.
Through it all, Elizabeth maintained a relentless touring schedule, playing shows in America, as well as South Korea, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Poland France and the UK, the last of these including memorable appearances at the Cambridge Folk Festival, the Maverick Festival and the Borderline in London. She has continued appearing on stage at the Grand Ole Opry - indeed, she has appeared over 300 times and yet is still a "non-member". She toured the UK in support of her Welder LP performing 18 dates with her husband Tim Carroll and her upright bass player Bones Hillman, formerly of Midnight Oil. Elizabeth’s latest video is “All The Time” the lead track from Welder, and is directed by Nashville’s Kristin Barlowe – the video is a fun take on those early Madonna videos.