Monday, March 27, 2006

Want A Hit Record, Yeah

I've been following the career arc of Elizabeth Cook for a few years now. We met when I was delivering guitars and amps (aka "cartage") for Kenny Vaughan, a brilliant guitar player who was hired to play on her Warner Brothers debut. She had put out a record of "super demos" earlier, and was re-doing a few of those tunes along with several new ones. Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty alumnus Richard Dodd was engineering and producing. The first sessions were tracked at Javelina Studios, with all of the players in one big room, tracking simultaneously. Very old school.

That album, "Hey, Y'all" eventually was released and a single "Stupid Things" was selected and the push was on. Unfortunately, WB decided they had better things to do (like try to convince Radio that Faith Hill's latest abomination of an album was still "country"), so they pulled the promo team from Elizabeth's record and tried to rescue the more famous but extremely marginally talented Hill. I guess it's easier to sell Pop as Country than Country as Country. Of course, they are a major label, they know not what they do...ever. Elizabeth jumped off the sinking USS Major Label, knowing full well the potential consequences.

I ended up playing guitar with Elizabeth several times, including gigs in Japan and France. Her music is straight-up honest traditional Country, without sounding retro or forced. This is the music she grew up on, including the Rock and Pop influences that some of the "museum music" retro bands suppress or deny.

Elizabeth put out another "super demo" album, "This Side Of The Moon", and again the critics raved, with the New York Times magazine thinking enough of it to put it on their "2005's Ten Best Albums You Might Have Missed" list. Not bad for a self-produced, largely self-promoted home grown record.

I had the pleasure of adding a few guitar parts to the new demos, and was thrilled to find out that Elizabeth has written yet another batch of moving and interesting songs. Her husband, roots guitar ace and singer/songwriter Tim Carroll has a visible hand in the pre-production and a couple of his tunes may end up on the finished record.

My hope is that people like Elizabeth get a chance to share their talents with the world and make a living doing it. No unwarranted hype. No need for semi-trucks full of gym equipment, or 48 pre-recorded tracks blasting through the P.A. trying to convince the live audience you can actually carry a tune. No ridiculous haircuts or labored-over paens to Redneckville. No attempt to find the least of the least of the least common denominator lyrics so that every drooling idiot locked in an attic can sing along to your proud tributes to ignorance. Nope, just enough album sales and tour dates to pay the bills and make a living. It's not too much to ask.

I encourage all of you regular readers to catch up with Elizabeth's career by buying the first three records. Support the type of artist who refuses to be the major label's requisite "blonde". Visit Cook's MySpace site and follow her "friends" links to like-minded artists all over the world. There IS a wide variety of Country music that Radio and Music Row have forgotten about.

It's my belief that if more people heard about these artists, they would buy their music. Well, dear reader, you have been put on notice. Please check out the music and see if it is something you like. If it is, buy it. Thanks.

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