Thursday, June 28, 2007

Miss Blue’es Child reviewed by Mark Thompson

Miss Blue’es Child
Eli Cook
Valley Entertainment
12 tracks/48:12

Recorded in 2005, this recording is Eli Cook’s first acoustic release. It is almost a solo effort with the only support coming from Patrick McCrowell on banjo and harmony vocals. Cook plays slide guitar throughout the recording, keeping the solos to a minimum in order keep the focus on the rhythmic thrust of each track. He also wrote four songs, including the title track.

The disc opens with a burst of snaky slide guitar on the Robert Johnson composition “Terraplane Blues”. When Cook starts to sing, it is hard to believe that the voice is coming from a twenty-year old. Eli has a deep, thick guttural growl with plenty of power. He doesn’t exhibit the range of tone or emotion found in the best singers but that will certainly come as he matures. It took several listens to the disc before I began to appreciate his distinctive vocal style. It certainly is suited to the hill country blues patterns that he favors on this recording. He easily pulls off an effective accapella version of Son House’s “Grinnin’ in Your Face”. The title track is a Cook original wit a foot-stomping beat and slashing slide riffs.

Cook turns in another strong performance on the traditional song “Goin’ Down South”, with McCrowell’s banjo helping to create an eerie aural landscape. “Highway Song” is a deep, brooding piece penned by Cook with some smoldering guitar licks. A couple of tracks disappoint as Eli doesn’t offer a new approach or fresh interpretation on the well-worn standards “Baby What You Want Me to Do” and “Irene”. The disc closes with a rev’ed up version of Booker White’s “Fixin’ to Die” with a tambourine driving the beat.

Cook ventures into the dark places that exist in the human spirit. His intense style may be too much for some listeners. Others will marvel at his ability to sound like a road-tested blues warrior. One thing for sure - Cook has a real passion for the music and this recording marks the start of a very promising career, even if he sounds like he has been at for decades. Check out Eli’s website for links to several live performances to get a better read on this talented young musician.

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