When: Wed., Aug. 22, 8 p.m. 2012
Country singer Elizabeth Cook has never bothered much with Nashville's unwritten rules, so it's hardly a shock that her latest album, the seven-track Gospel Plow (31 Tigers), tweaks the tradition of country artists releasing gospel records. It's definitely a gospel record, no question there, but it doesn't sound like a Nashville gospel record—its pared-down instrumentation dispenses with drums, pushing her usually hard-rocking band toward bluegrass austerity, and it begins and ends with songs a long way from Music City orthodoxy. She opens with "If I Had My Way, I'd Tear This Building Down," a classic by the great blues evangelist Blind Willie Johnson, complete with hand-clap percussion and chanted vocals, and closes with a plaintive take on the Velvet Underground's "Jesus." When she sings traditional spirituals, she clearly takes after the African-American versions—her "Every Humble Knee Must Bow" recalls the Dixie Hummingbirds more than the Nashville Bluegrass Band, for instance—and even when she tackles a contemporary country gospel number such as "Hear Jerusalem Calling," she goes for roof-raising celebration, not solemnity.
On his latest album, Look Out! (Gulcher), Cook's husband and lead guitarist, Tim Carroll, lays out his no-frills philosophy of music: "All I ever wanted was to play guitar / Never really cared if I became a star," he sings on "That's Rock & Roll." There's little question that he's a true believer: he started out in the late 70s in calculatedly outrageous Indiana new-wave band the Gizmos, and he's stuck with rock ever since, even after settling in Nashville and putting sideman work ahead of his solo career. On his own he favors gritty, punk-fueled roots rock with seriously raunchy guitar, and though his singing doesn't always do his melodies big favors, he's a terrific writer—his tunes have been covered by everyone from John Prine to Asleep at the Wheel. This is a solo electric set; Cook will also play behind Cook with upright bassist Bones Hillman. —Peter Margasak Cook headlines and Carroll opens.