Elizabeth Cook, The Borderline, London
Thursday 13 January 2011
Greeting us with a characteristic "Hey, y'all", Elizabeth Cook delivered a piece of Nashville to London last night. Like a life-size Barbie doll in a figure-hugging dress and cowboy boots, she tossed her blonde mane and clapped her hands together girlishly before wrapping her glossed lips around a set more emotive than the EastEnders baby-swap plot.
Cook's not joking when she says her family provided her with "plenty of material". Her mother was a "hillbilly singer" from Charleston who met her moonshine-runner daddy soon after he left Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. Her music is filled with tributes, both stark and humorous, to her kin.
Strumming her guitar and accompanied by her musician husband, Tim Carroll, Cook lulled the audience to putty. "All the Time", from her latest album, Welder, is full of beautifully crafted harmonies and shows the Appalachian and bluegrass influences in her work.
The wickedly silly "El Camino", a song about "the weird sexual power" held by unattractive male owners of that particular brand of American car, provided some thigh-slapping levity. A few tracks from her breakthrough album, Balls, followed. And her family woes popped up again on the mawkishly compelling "Heroine Addict Sister".
Having wound the audience into an emotional peak, she just about tipped us over the edge with "Mama's Prayers", from Balls. Speaking of her mother's death a year ago, she is visibly moved. But the roller-coaster didn't stay on its downward track and moments later she'd donned tap shoes and was dancing percussively (and effortlessly) to one of Carroll's numbers.
She finished with "Sometimes It Takes Balls to be a Woman" ("Wait, I need lip gloss for this one"), a sassy, rather daft song that proves this girl out of time is Proper Country. Like the love child that Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton never had, she's mesmerising.
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