[21 August 2007]
On his first solo album, Miss Blues’ Child, Eli Cook pulls off impressive, rattle-and-clang bluesmanship and an astoundingly full sound. The feat is made doubly remarkable considering that it’s only Cook and banjo-player Patrick McCrowell pulling and picking the strings. At 20 years of age, the Virginia native is the latest in a long line of skinny, blonde white boys with surprisingly deep, soulful, baritone voices, although Cook’s is much deeper and more garbled than Jonny Lang. The a capella “Grinnin’ In Your Face” woefully offsets Cook’s voice, the slurring end result of which mimics the intro to “John the Revelator” without the benefit of having a Delta blues force come in and kick thine heathen ass. Listening to Cook’s aged, raspy growl, it’s hard to tell whether his vocal affectation is put on for show or if he really did meet up with the same crossroads demon as Robert Johnson. Speak of the devil himself, Cook kicks off the album with a mean version of the legendary bluesman’s “Terraplane Blues”. That’s where Cook finds his redemption. Unexpectedly modern touches pop up on the album, a mix of old classics recovered and Eli Cook’s own completely original material. There’s a Tom Waits-esque take on the traditional tune, “Irene”, and on his own original composition, “Trick Bag”, steel twangs from beneath his fingers with faint additions of guitar harmonics and lower-register rumblings. Strictly as a blues guitar album, Miss Blues’ Child is beyond reproach. Eli Cook nails old school, traditional blues style in the vein of John Lee Hooker in a flawlessly flawed sort of way.