As music evolves and grows, it sometimes 
hits roadblocks.  That has been a problem 
in the past with the blues.  Eli Cook's latest 
album takes a stab at helping the music 
evolve.  It's not an earth-shatering turn by
 any means.  Any fan of the blues will recognize
 the patterns and the structures of the songs.
  But, at 25, Cook has been influenced enough
 by bands like Metallica and Rage Against the
 Machine to let a little bit of that seep in.  
   Most of the songs on Ace, Jack & King are
 trio tunes that appear simple but have some
 complex, layered guitar parts.  From the feedback-driven guitar that opens "Death Rattle" to the
 overdriven harp that kicks off shortly after, it's easy to see this isn't your father's blues.  But
 the heavy back beat and menacing guitar are firmly in the blues pocket.  When the song is reprised as the last song on the disc, it takes on a more sinister tone with metal-esque guitars and the only straight rock solo on the record.  In between, Cook shows in original tunes like the acoustic "Better Man," with its descending chord pattern and slinky slide, and "Draggin' My Dogs," a bouncy folk-blues with more slide and even mandolins, that he understands the idiom inside and out.  "Snake Charm" is the kind of tune that helps put the evelution in plain sight.  A throaty Coval matches the crunchy guitars that lean as much toward metal as they do blues.  A harp solo and some wah-wah added to Cook's guitar solo tie the whole thing together.
  His choice of covers is pretty standard, but the way he dilivers them is not.  The Charles Brown classic "Driftin'" gets a pounding Chicago makeover with great slide and harp.  An old-timey "Cocaine Blues" lets him show his finger-picking abilities, helped by a "telephone" effect on his vocal.  Skip James' "Crowjane" starts with a wildly distored guitar sound and moves onto a heavy feel with guitar and harp that James never could have envisioned.
  Artists often talk about the blues as a living and growing thing and not just a style of music fit for museums.  Cook puts that theory into practice and moves things forward.--John Heidt

EVERYBODY KNOWS THE STORY OF THE crossroads, where blues guitarists go at midnight
to trade their souls to the devil for musical prowess. It’s just a myth, of course,but if it was true, 
21-year-old firebrand Eli Cook could have bragging rights, as his scarifying solo-country blues 
chill like a hellhound on your trail.  Like Son House, Skip James, and the other prewar country 
blues masters who inspired him, Cook received his grounding in gospel music—he was even invited
 to play in backwoods black churches—performing at local revivals around Charlottesville, Virginia, 
where his deeply emotional solo-acoustic playing made him stand out. Unlike those early bluesmen,
however, Cook was never conflicted about performing sacred versus profane music. “It didn’t
 seem unnatural,” says Cook, who was the product of a rural Southern upbringing where people 
moved easily between genres. “It’s what was around me, and I just tried to pick up on everything and
everybody, including Doc Watson and Chet Atkins. In fact, hearing Chet fingerpick made me realize
 I didn’t need a band.”
        On the stunning Miss Blues’es Child [Valley Entertainment], Cook’s fingerstyle technique
 features his thumb and a metal fingerpick turned backwards on his index finger to create a larger 
and louder “fingernail.” His slashing slide work on a ’64 Gibson J-50, fitted with a Dean Markley 
Pro-Mag pickup, and plugged into a reissue Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer and a ’68 Fender Super
Reverb, often turns into a ferocious howl. He also stomps a kick drum. A selftaught player,
Cook’s introduction to classic blues and rock came via his parents’ record collection.       
          “I remember hearing that Keith Richards played in open tunings,” he recalls. “And,
 one day, I fell into open D [D, A, D, F#, A, D, low to high] and it sounded like Elmore James.
 I thought, ‘S**t, this is it!’”
         Although Cook’s playing would eventually be influenced by the blues-rock styles of 
Duane Allman and Johnny Winter, he was initially more influenced by Brian Jones, who launched 
him on a journey back to the originators.  “Son House was raw and basic, playing at the 12th,
 5th and 7th frets, and I was happy to play early blues and R&B that way,”  explains Cook, referring
 to where the I, IV, and V chords are located in open D tuning—an approach that can be
 heard to devastating effect on his cover of Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues.” Using a 
combination of fretted and slide licks for the I chord in the open position, and at the 12th fret, he
also quotes James’ “Dust My Broom” and Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man” within a maelstrom of 
grinding, overdriven tones. Cook’s mournful take on Earl King’s “Trick Bag” is lower in volume.
 Fretting without the slide on an unamplified Washburn 12-string acoustic—reminiscent of 
Jimi Hendrix’s “Hear My Train a’ Comin’”and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Life by the Drop”—
he tosses off twisting, serpentine runs as effortlessly as his predecessors. Playing with a high
 action and hefty D’Addario EXP13 bronze strings helps him achieve his big sound.
       Like many solo-blues guitarists, Cook employs his left hand thumb for fretting. “With the slide 
on your pinky, you can play bass notes with your other fingers,” he explains. “I do that on 
Leadbelly’s ‘Goodnight Irene,’ which is in D tuning. In the first verse, I pluck the sixth string (D) open,
 and then, using the slide, I move up to the 4th fret on the first string (D) to F# , the major third. 
Then, I slide down on the first string from the 7th fret (A) to the open string (D), while moving my 
thumb up on the sixth string to the 4th fret (F# ), at the same time picking the middle open 
strings for a drone effect.”
         Cook’s dark, unamplified, non-slide original “Highway Song” is in D, and it shows a
Skip James influence, though James tuned to open Dm [D, A, D, F, A, D, low to high].
“I play octaves on the three D strings, and, because it is sort of a minor key song, I play the
 minor third (F) at the 3rd fret on the sixth and first strings, while mainly staying away from the 
major third (F# ).”
        Cook does execute the classic blues move from the minor third to major third, however,
“by playing the fourth string at the 3rd fret (F) and then plucking the third string (F# ) open.”
         The album’s apocalyptic closing track, Bukka White’s “Fixin’ to Die,” is done up in 
hill country style, similar to the late R.L.Burnside. It is an outgrowth of the work songs of the 
past—such as “Walking Blues”—that were sung in the lumber camps to synchronize the 
workers when chopping trees, and is founded on a relentlessly thumping 4/4 groove.
“That’s the rowdiest track,” says Cook.  “I’m hitting the strings real hard with the side of my
thumb. It’s a combination of alternately strumming up on the treble strings with your fingers, 
and then slapping down with your thumb on the bass strings.”
         With rhythmic drive and intensity rivaling Son House, he hammers the I chord modal
          stomp with a power that makes the White Stripes sound like polite parlor music. “It’s one of 
those simpler songs that people take for granted, but the technique is subtle,” Cook explains.
 “For example, the main riff in D starts with the bottom three strings, sliding up to the 3rd fret (F), 
the 5th fret (G), and then back to the open strings, with variations on the order of the chords.
And there’s also deciding when to slide into a chord from above or below.”
         Likewise, there’s the consummate skill with which Cook builds towards the climax
of a song without a backing chord progression to provide forward momentum, by scatting
along with the riff, and then exploding in the upper register like fireworks on the Fourth of July.
          Cook admits, however, that having great feel and authenticity is not something you can 
practice.  “You see some guys making facial expressions, and really getting into it,” he says.
“I’ve never focused on that. Unlike rock or pop, the blues is music that is not so much for entertainment.
 The original blues was used for entertainment, but it was written and sung by the artists as a
means of expressing their feelings of oppression.  It was an outlet for people who had music as
 their only outlet—and that’s the purest form of art.” 
                                                                          Dave Rubin
                                                                          62 SEPTEMBER 2007 GUITAR PLAYER

Eli Cook 
Slant MagazineMiss Blues'es Child
by Jonathan Keefe
Posted: June 18, 2007

It's been well over a decade since a young white kid staked a claim as the next great blues prodigy—Kenny Wayne Shepherd never really transcended his obvious sources of influence, Jonny Lang turned into a gospel singer with decidedly mixed results, and Shannon Curfman never even recorded a second album. Enter 20-year-old Eli Cook, whose Miss Blues'es Child is among the most compelling debuts in recent memory. When so much of modern blues recalls the all-too-accurate Blueshammer sequence from Ghost World, it's refreshing to hear an artist like Cook, who doesn't bother with predictable 12-bar arrangements or rely on strident old-timey imagery. Instead, he attains a remarkable degree of authenticity from his fearless arrangements of Robert Johnson's "Terraplane Blues" and Son House's "Grinnin' In Your Face," both of which showcase can't-be-taught instincts in phrasing and an ear for killer material. Even more impressive is that his four original compositions are arguably the best cuts on the album. The spoken-word intro to he title track, which takes its title from a Langston Hughes poem, claims that it's a "remix," which barely does justice to its inspired rhythmic structure, while "Don't Ride My Pony" is built on some devilish banjo picking by Patrick McCrowell, making for a country-inflected barnburner. On these tracks, his willingness to toy with genre elevates Cook above all of the other supposed wunderkinds. Still, what's most striking about Cook—since the reverb in the album's production does, admittedly, hide a few sloppier passages in his guitar-work—is his otherworldly voice. A gritty, old-as-the-hills baritone, Cook's voice isn't pleasing in any conventional sense, but that's what makes it perfectly suited for blues. Singing about being destitute or outrunning death, Cook is never less than convincing. He's a kid just sick with talent and someone with the potential to reinvigorate a tired genre.

Music Review: Eli Cook - Miss Blues'es Child
Written by Dave Lifton
Published June 13, 2007

Ever since the British Invasion inspired countless numbers of white kids to pick up guitars and delve into the rich musical language of the blues, it seems that every five years or so we see the rise of a teenage prodigy with a fierce love and dedication to the blues.

With proper marketing, it's quite possible that Eli Cook, a 20-year old from Charlottesville, Virginia whose 2005 album, Miss Blues'es Child was recently re-released on Valley Entertainment, could be the next one. While he has the requisite background of all the other previous Great White Hopes (discovered the blues through his parents' collection, opened up for legends like B.B. King and Johnny Winter), Cook stands out from the Kenny Wayne Shepards and Kid Johnny Langs of the world for several reasons.

For starters, while most new gunslingers ape the urban 12-bar electric blues of Muddy Waters, Albert King, or Eric Clapton, Cook goes back further to the solo, one-chord acoustic Delta blues of Robert Johnson and Leadbelly, both of whom are covered on Miss Blues'es Child. I can't tell you how thrilling it was to hear a new blues guitar player not try to sound like Stevie Ray Vaughn. That's not a slight on Vaughn, whom I love, but rather that his influence is so huge that it has reached the point of redundancy.

The second is that Cook's self-penned tunes – four of the twelve songs on Miss Blues'es Child, including the title track – stand up well against the traditional numbers on the album. For years I've felt that the modern crop of blues musicians are too reliant upon their guitar chops and well-worn clichés to write effective songs, so to hear someone taking a new approach to the blues is very refreshing, and breathes life into the older songs.

Finally, there is Cook's voice, a deep, gruff baritone that conjures up images of hoodoo and mojo, tin shacks and cotton fields. While it is undoubtedly an impressive-sounding instrument, Cook will have to gain greater command of his vocals in order to grow as an artist. A few bad relationships and some heavy drinking would also be helpful.

Recorded in a single session, Miss Blues'es Child is a promising album by a bright young talent, and I look forward to see how his career progresses over the next few years.

from BLOG CRITICS, May 2007

"Eli Cook is a twenty-year-old blues guitar wizard with genuine soul. His first acoustic recording consists of old and new songs played in the raw, live-sounding arrangements with little more than Cook's acoustic guitar and voice, plus banjo accompaniment by the stalwart Patrick McCrowell. Cook's playing is a joy, and his original songs fit smoothly with his thoughtful covers of Robert Johnson, Son House, traditional songs and the like...Cook's raucous take on Fixin' To Die shows his mastery of incessant, scratchy, electricity. By contrast, the satisfying, seven-minute-long Trick Bag, also an original, demonstrates his sensitivity to the importance of empty space, something young performers don't usually develop so early in their careers...Cook's fine guitar work and top-notch material make this CD a very worthwhile listen. Eli Cook is a talent to reckon with."--Jon Sobel pub. May 11, 2007 at blogcritics Cook 

from ON TAP MAGAZINE May 2007

"Twenty-year-old prodigy Eli Cook is a revelation. With a voice as rich and graveled as his by-gone Delta-blues predecessors and guitar work that most musicians couldn’t hope to master through decades of intensive training, Cook’s debut release feels more like an unearthed Southern masterpiece than the recordings of an underage white boy ." — LGLP at On Tap Magazine, Washington, D.C

from THE NEW DOMINION, April Issue
Grunge with a side of blues
Versatile Cook poised to become breakout star
By Chris Graham/

Eli Cook has a musical versatility that should serve him well on that magical day when he becomes Central Virginia's next big thing.
And he can thank his parents for that. 
"Growing up, my parents had a big record collection--and they had a lot blues in it, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, and what not. So that's what I heard--and when I started playing guitar, and I was 14 when I started playing guitar, and everybody else was playing heavy metal and punk rock, I liked the blues better, so that's when I learned how to play," says Cook, a 20-year-old from Nelson County whose band recently released his second CD, "ElectricHolyFireWater."

"ElectricHolyFireWater" shows Cook's evolution as a musician--after "Miss Blues'es Child," his first release, which was heavy with old-school Delta Blues, "ElectricHolyFireWater" sounds more like early 1990s Seattle grunge than anything else.

Listening to the tunes--"Bury Me," "Light That Gasoline," "Black Tattoo"--I swear that I was able to detect something in the way of striking similarities between the two generes. The rhythms flowing off Cook's guitar sound to my ears very much like they have a basis in the blues of Waters and Hooker and B.B.King and others.

Read More ...
ARCHIVES 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 
Plugged in

Nothing to be blue about

Local blues musicians load up on gigs and new releases

If the first week of 2007 has given you the blues, you are in luck. Eli Cook ( and his trio will release their new CD, Electric Holy Fire Water, on January 27 at Uncle Charlie’s in Crozet. The disc was recorded at Sound of Music in Richmond, and Cook says that Richmond-based metal band Lamb of God were recording in the upstairs studio at the same time. Vocal tracks were finished at the Music Resource Center here in town. Cook produced the new CD himself and describes the 12 tunes as “blues metal,” a rocked-up sound very different from his last acoustic record. You can find Cook’s CD at Plan 9 and CDBaby.

Metal head: Blues master Eli Cook describes his new CD as metal blues. 
But you can get out earlier and see Cook’s African blues project with Darrell Rose at the Satellite Ballroom ( this Friday night. Cook and Rose have done a handful of gigs together, most recently at the Kennedy Center in November. With the incomparable Ali Farka Toure as their musical inspiration, Cook and Rose will play an early set, opening for longtime blues musicians Terry Garland ( and Mark Wenner.

Garland, who now lives in Richmond, and longtime D.C. resident Wenner have been as committed to blues music as anyone on the scene. Garland, who is a great live performer, cut his teeth on Robert Johnson and Jimmy Reed. He’s a master acoustic blues and slide player. Wenner began playing harp in high school in D.C. and was under the influence of Paul Butterfield while in college at Columbia, until he was “saved,” he says, by Charlie Musselwhite’s sound. Wenner was a founding member of the seminal local blues band The Nighthawks, who have been together for more than 30 years. 

FACETIME- Eli's cooking: Teen blues sensation turns 20Published June 29, 2006 in issue 0529 of the HooK. By Vijith Assar 
Blues aficionados know that authenticity doesn't always translate to record sales. Sometimes, it seems to take a John Mayer vanity project to get people to pay attention. To some extent, however, Eli Cook can walk the line between popularity and tradition. Miss Blues' Child, released in December, had Cook paying homage to traditional blues with little more than an acoustic guitar. "I was in between backing musicians," he explains.

MUSIC REVIEW- Playing truth: Eli Cook connects to sublime
Published May 4, 2006 in issue 0518 of the HooK. By DAMANI HARRISON DAMANI@READTHEHOOK.COM 
Eli Cook is the truth. Period. Now, I know what youre thinking. Youre thinking Im exaggerating. Youre thinking Im blowing things way out of proportion, and theres no way a local cat deserves the illustrious title of the truth. But Im here to tell you Eli Cook does.
Watch Eli perform at the Kennedy Center

Eli Cook at Fellini's NO.9
Saturday, March 12 2005

If I weren't so concerned with the moral decline of society born of uncaring media and outrageous consumerism, I would put together an 18-word string of explicatives to descirbe and honor my first experience seeing 18-year old blues guitarist Eli Cook and his Red House Blues Band.
Their performance at Fellini's No.9 last Saturday night was quite literally one of the best--if not thebest--musical experience I've ever had in Charlottesville. Cook doesn't just play exceptionally well for someone his age, he plays exceptionally well for someone of any age, in any age. He's a prodigy, with enough soul in him now to match someone with years of experience, and the chops to flaunt it. 
Except for a few stuttered guitar notes and what I believe was the sound of Cook dropping his A to D (called drop D, it allows the guitar to be played in a different fashion than standard tuning), Fellini's was quiet right up until Cook et al.began their litzkrief. Then suddenly the lights went low, and with a bang, the trio was off.
On the first tune, a shuffling blues instrumental, Cook began his guitar slinging slowly, following the main irff and speeding up his dancing fingers as well as their placement on the fretboard. Finding a bass player who could complement Cook's virtuosity must have been quite a feat, but the musician definitely got his man. As he teased the scales of the instrument, there was nothing more you could ask him to contribute to the trio's sound.
On the next tune, a more standard blues piece, Cook took on the vocal duties, and from the first syllable, all heads turned to the stage with looks of amazement. The 18-year-old's deep baritone, with its slightly slurred country nuances, is phenomenal, and its broken-in quality was completely unexpected in someone so young.
Hendrix would be a major touchstone when attempting a description of Cook's voice, but the latter's in more pleasing to the ear, and seemed to be more flexiable in its range. Cook emplyed every trick in the blues book for his solos, even edging on '80s shredding at certain points, but without losing the deep sad vibe he seems to know so well.
Chuck Berry's "Riding Along In My Automobile" was another highlight of the set, Cook laying down even more complex and colorful blues lead work between the vocal lines than the master. Cook pulled the song off, no question, his southern twang coming out in full force here. Later in the set, Jerry Lee Lewis's "Great Balls of Fire" made an outstanding transition from piano to Cook's guitar antics, keeping all the fire of the original.
Without swearing, it's had to get across the utter amazement that overcame me last Saturday night. You need to see this guy before time takes him away from us into the bright lights of the big time.--Mark Grabowski

Garden of Sheba
Wednesday, December 10 2003
Reprinted with permission of The C'Ville Review

Featuring fast fingered guitar and a powerful voice beyond
his years, Cook doesn't need any Robert Johnson-style pact 
with the devil to take him to the top.

Ax slinger Eli Cook has skills. Looking a bit like Kenny Wayne Shepherd, this young man plays more like Stevie Ray Vaughan, a comparison that has more to do with ability than the fact Cook plays a careworn tobacco sunburst Stratocaster, scuffed bare in spots.
Backed by the super tight father-and-son rhythm section of bassist Jeff Lauderback and drummer Jeff Jr., Cook tore through two sets touching on modern blues signposts, from more traditional roadhouse fare and rhythm and blues to blues-inspired rock and roll of the '50s and '60s. Every bit of a surprise, Cook's voice is octaves lower than you'd expect, with a Delta-affected drawl a la ZZ Top's "La Grange." Breaking in Garden of Sheba for what should be a regular Tuesday night gig, Cook and company showed off their instrumental prowess and range, tackling songs by legends like Elvis, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and Jimi Hendrix.
Though short on years, Cook is not lacking in stage presence, at one point quipping that oldsters in the audience would be familiar with the next number and then launching into Jerry Lee Lewis' classic "Great Balls of Fire." The rendition was made all the better when Cook showily tossed the guitar over his head and behind his neck, continuing to play without missing a beat. Later, he silkly asked, "You said it was raining when you came in tonight?" before playing Stevie Ray Vaughan's touching "The Sky is Crying," showing that this up-and-comer has the moves to go where the music takes him.--Matthew Hirst

BRAVING THE BLUES Published Jan. 9, 2003
NelsonCounty teenager takes center stage
By Theresa Boyes/Lynchburg News & Advance 

Off stage, Eli Cook is reserved--almost shy--but on stage, the blues-singing teenager exhibits a confidence beyond his 16 years, strumming his guitar, tapping his foot and belting out tunes in a voice as deep as a Mississippi swamp. 

Bob Taylor, who introduced Cook recently at Rapunzel's Coffee and Books in Lovingston, described the first time he met the lanky, blond teenager: "He sat down and commenced to play some of the finest blues music I've heard in a long time." Surrounded by books, the air scented with fragrant candles and the faint smell of cappuccino, Cook entertained the crowd with a three-song set that included two tunes made popular by Elvis Presley, That's All Right and Blue Christmas.

Cook counts old blues masters Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson among his musical influences, but doesn't write his own songs. "There's enough good stuff out there already," he said. 

A highschool junior, Cook lives in Faber (on the Nelson-Albemarle county line) with his parents, Raymond and Neva Cook. "My parents have a very large record collection, a lot of blues, folk and what not," he said. "I just picked it up." When he was 14, he heard a blues song by Mississippi John Hurt on the radio. According to his mother, it was one his older sister, Sabra, used to play on her guitar when he was a baby.
"Six months later, he was playing," she said. "He didn't play the guuitar; the guitar sang as soon as he touched it."
Since then, he's played mostly in Nelson County at church revivals, gospel sings, rescue squad dinners and at Rapunzel's, where he was the first one to play when the coffeehouse opened in the winter of 2002.
When Cook graduates from highschool in 2004, he plans to attend college and study art. "I realize that there's quite a large number of people that play music," he said. "I don't have any visions of grandeur." But that doesn't mean he will put a halt to his musical ventures.
"I'd definitely like to keep playing as much as possible," he said. "I just like playing in front of people." --Theresa Boyd 
Guitar Player    Riffs --by Dave Rubin                                           September 2007
Heavy Blues
 126    VINTAGE GUITAR   January 2012
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  Nov 9, 2015

  The Daily Progress 
   Eli Cook lands on Blues Matters' list of 
​     Top International Solo Blues Artists

   Eli Cook has made a list of international favorites over at Blues Matters magazine. 

   Blues guitarist Eli Cook received international acclaim when he was named to Blues  Matters magazine’s 2015 Writer’s Poll as the No. 3 Favorite International Blues Solo Artist.

   Cook beat Devon Allman and Elvin Bishop in rankings. Blues Matters magazine is the premier blues 
music publication in the United Kingdom.
Eli Cook’s High Dollar Gospel testifies to the power of the blues
by Joe McSpadden
August 14, 2017 

What do you do when you can play straight blues or Hendrix style hard rock with equal ease and finesse? On the seventh album of his career the phenom from Nelson County, Virginia reins in his inner guitar god and makes his most focused roots blues album yet. High Dollar Gospel finds Cook showcasing his acoustic mojo and the result is the most satisfying record of his career.

“The album title was a phrase that got stuck in my head. It resonated with me. It brings up, for me anyway, images of the south, religion and politics, and money.” Speaking by phone from his home outside of Charlottesville, Cook comes off reserved, almost shy. This is a vivid contrast from the confident stage presence the lanky thirty-one-year-old projects when he has his trusty resonator in his hands. One gets the sense that he would rather let his guitar speak for him.
Cook’s public profile seems split between his solo acoustic gigs and his power trio shows, the latter representing his affection for the music of Hendrix and Robin Trower. But Cook was equally enamored of the picking of Doc Watson and Merle Travis. “The last few years I’ve done more solo shows. I wanted to have an album at shows that sounded closer to the performance the audience just heard. And I wanted to connect to the Americana crowd that appreciates the crossroads where blues, Appalachian, and country intersects.”

The album will be released on 08/18/17. On that same day Cook will play a show in Culpeper, Virginia at the Packard Campus of the Library of Congress. Cook has a program in the works that will shine a light on folk blues, early acapella songs, church music and prison field songs. The project, still in development, aims to be interactive, with some archival film interspersed with Cook's live performance.

At thirteen Cook was well on his way to learning guitar. By sixteen he was playing community centers and churches. “I was too young to play in bars. But playing around the area opened doors for me and I got invited to play some tent revivals. Here was this skinny long-haired white kid playing old spirituals in front of a mostly black congregation. Later, when I was older, I got to play in a trio in bars, and get paid for it. I guess you get paid in the afterlife for singing gospel.”
By eighteen he was opening for the likes of B.B. King. “I opened for him four or five times. I’ve opened for (the late) Johnny Winter, John Mayall, and Robert Cray.” In 2015 Blues Matters! Magazine listed Cook in its Writers Poll, placing him third in the Favorite International Blues Solo Artist category. “My plans include getting over to Europe, and getting on the festival circuit there. So far, the only time I’ve been outside the States is to Canada.”
High Dollar Gospel kicks off with the slithery tones of Cook’s slide on “Trouble Maker.” Snaking up and down the frets, Cook sounds as menacing as a rattler coiled to strike as he sings

Be my own trouble maker
be my one hip shaker
be my own trouble maker
love me like a .45

Set against an insistent bass drum Cook cuts loose, the freewheeling slide implying a manic relationship doomed to crash and burn. It‘s the sort of thing that needs the closure that only a long night alone with a bottle of bourbon can bring.
Cook’s rich baritone calls to mind the deep bottomless tones of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, and he can bring the downright spooky when it is needed. “The Devil Finds Work” rumbles along at midtempo as Cook muses about finding “some other one to sing my song, it might not be tonight, but it won’t be long.” Cook is going to cut loose his lover and clearly has the upper hand in the affair.

The theme of broken down love leads into something more sinister on “Mixing My Medicine.” This time out Cook is on the wrong side of things as it is clear he is not in control of the situation. A languid blues dirge, Cook’s character is doing some heavy medicating.

Who been mixing my medicine
its tearing me up inside
believe I got twice the dose of heartache 
any doctor would prescribe
Can’t follow doctor’s orders
I don’t know which ones to take

Cook has been known to favor a twelve-string acoustic on certain songs and the choice here is spot on. As the song nears its end we hear Cook discover only too late that “this remedy is far too strong/ well, you’ve been mixing my medicine/now I know my time ain’t long.”

“Pray for Rain” is slow rocker that finds Cook stating “sometimes a broken wing is all you need.” The electric guitar is reminiscent of Clapton’s take on “The Sky is Crying.” One of the best tracks is a cover of Muddy Waters. “Can’t Lose What You Never Had” is, in Cook’s able hands, a haunting tale of loss and psychic trauma. Cook’s voice in the chorus soars above the acoustic guitar that underpins the track, and the tortured Les Paul that signals a man whose heart and mind are unraveling. In Cook’s version, the very survival of the central character is in question. Turn up the volume on this one, and call a friend to come and sit with you and help you get through it. This one is not for the faint-hearted.
“Mother’s Prayer” is a tender ballad of unconditional love. “It’s probably the most personal song I have ever written. My older sister passed suddenly, a few years ago. She had four children. I think of the effect on my mother in all that. This one hits close to home.,” Cook says. The simple percussion and the mournful guitar notes emphasize the sense of loss, and the enduring nature of maternal love.

There are two more covers in addition to the Muddy Waters song. Roosevelt Sykes’ revenge song “44. Blues” is rendered with reverence and affection while Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” is more entreating than demanding. The last two tracks are originals and continue the theme of relationship. “Month of Sundays” finds the main character torn between leaving and staying. Cook’s narrator declares, “that look in your eyes I won’t chase it anymore, just wait at every window, wish at every door.” Hooked by her changing emotions he can’t completely let go, confessing, “the only thing that’s sure is that every time you want a little less I want a whole lot more.”
The album ends on an upbeat note, with Cook lost in a new love, seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Here Cook saves the best for the last testifying that he’s found a love that makes sense of all the loss and loneliness. Trading a mandolin for his resonator and his faithful twelve-string, Cook goes all head over heels, diving in unchecked, casting care to the wind. Riding on the rhythm of the mandolin he bounces back into the land of the living:

Everybody needs just a little more smile
everybody sees but they live in denial
everybody scream every once in a while
but I got love if I got nothing but you
losing all the friends that I never made
money that I spent that I should have saved
maybe I could spin in an early grave
you know lover I been dreaming of you
If not for you 
my little darling 
this world would drive me crazy
dancing like a fool 
on the side of the road
and I’m gone…

The song is a triumphant return to the land of the living and the loving. Cook’s blues help him transcend what seems like the end and, through the joy of connection, he is able to rise again. Hot damn and hallelujah, this is what healing feels like. True redemption doesn’t deny the dark end of the street or the dark night of the soul. Instead it comes back around when we least expect it and catches us off guard when we think it’s all over, only to say there is another second chance waiting for us if we are courageous enough to reach for the brass ring. Brother, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings, and my friends got her tied and gagged in a closet in in an abandoned warehouse. And no, I ain’t giving up the address. Boogie on, Mr. Cook, boogie on.