Elizabeth Cook, Derek Hoke Recommended Soundboard Image

When: Thu., Aug. 4, 8 p.m. 2016

Since country singer Elizabeth Cook released Welder in 2010—succeeded in 2012 by the seven-track gospel record Gospel Plow—she’s dealt with a steady profusion of serious problems: she divorced guitarist and fellow songwriter Tim Carroll, she was diagnosed with a chemical imbalance that led to a rehab stint, her family home in Florida burned to the ground, and her father died (her mother passed in 2008). It’s no wonder a new record was put off so long. But such misfortune can inspire songwriting, and indeed, there are songs on her new record, Exodus of Venus (Agent Love/Thirty Tigers), that deal with dysfunction, abuse, and poor decision making. On “Methadone Blues,” a sequel to her 2010 song “Heroin Addict Sister,” she brings humor to a devastating subject, dropping the couplet, “Now I don’t like the looks of my latest dealer / Starched white lab coat socialistic healer.” On “Straitjacket Love,” a bluegrass-influenced gem featuring spot-on harmony singing from Patty Loveless, Cook presents a discomfiting portrait of romantic dependence, with a narrator ready to fly off the rails if she’s not practically smothered with love. The album was produced by the singer’s boyfriend, guitarist Dexter Green—who also cowrote most of the songs—nudging Cook to leave behind her honky-tonk sound in favor of a kind of bland Memphis soul-infused rock. Cook’s reedy, diminutive voice shines through, but its frequent battle with hard-rock guitars and thudding drums (played by alt-rock session pro Matt Chamberlain) grows tiresome. Her writing deserves a more subtle approach.

Peter Margasak

Price: $20

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