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After this night, Elizabeth Cook has no excuses

Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., June 23, 2010

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Elizabeth Cook was a newcomer to Boston, but the strong-voiced, country traditionalist with a lot of sass and amiability made you wonder just why she hadn't been here any sooner.

The Nashville-based singer just put out the very fine "Welder," a collection produced by Don Was that has a lot of personal songs mixed with a lot of humor. Cook has gone the major label route by releasing a disc through Warner many years ago, but she knew that not a good fit. Now, she's given to releasing albums either on her own or with "Welder," on a small, Nashville indie label (Thirty One Records). She's apparently making the music she wants to make, and it shows.

Cook, who has logged a chunk of time on the Grand Ole Opry to her (and their) credit, showcased that she is one fine singer with a tremendous similarity to Dolly Parton. She knows her way around twangy songs (the lead-off All the Time), can get a bit retro bluesy (El Camino) and moves at different speeds (Heroin Addict Sister, probably the most haunting song of the evening where the title about says it all, and Mama's Funeral.)

Not everything needed to be so serious, which lent itself to songs like Yes to Booty from "Welder," Times are Tough in Rock N' Roll and probably her best known song which closed out the regular set, the country sing-along would-be anthem if Cook was popular, Sometimes It Takes Balls to Be a Woman.

Cook threw in a few solid covers as well including Frankie Miller's Blackland Farmer and Bill Monroe's I'm Working on a Building. She also turned in a strong reading of her mother's I'm Beginning to Forget from the new disc.

Cook showed a great personality on stage as well, easily engaging the crowd with (mainly funny) stories. She's quite comfortable in her own skin and drew a very much deserved standing ovation from a chunk of the crowd at the end of the second set.

Performing as a three-piece with Cook on acoustic, Cook was helped ably throughout by upright bassist Bones Hillman, who once upon a time was in Aussie rock band Midnight Oil, and ace guitarist Tim Carroll, who also doubles as Cook's husband. Carroll had a turn or two singing his material as he has released several fine CDs during his career.

Cook may have been a rookie in coming to these parts, but based on this outing, she no longer has any excuses why she shouldn't bring her fun-filled, engaging traditional country music back.