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 http://blogcritics.org/archinves/2007/05/11/20749.phpEli 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 Grahamfirstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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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 (www.elicook.com) 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 (www.satelliteballroom.com) 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 (www.terrygarland.com) 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 email@example.com
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
ElLI COOK'S REDHOUSE BLUES BAND
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