Exodus of Venus
Agent Love Records
Elizabeth Cook, the salty-mouth host of Apron Strings on Outlaw Country satellite radio, co-star with Todd Snider on the stoner flick East Nashville Tonight and frequent Grand Old Opry guest hasn’t released an album since 2010’s Welder, but she ain’t been slack in the meantime. Divorce, a stint in rehab and a fire kept her busy, but Exodus of Venus is worth the wait.
Cook started her career at age 4, by 9 she had her own band, and began racking up Opry appearances (over 300 and counting), while managing to graduate Georgia Southern University with a dual major, and put out her first album, the self-released The Blue Album in 2000. All along she’s been what southern folk call “a handful”. Cook looks at life without flinching, isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind- such as on the title cut- “Far away lands suffered a plague/The minute you put your hand on my leg”- hell, she put out an album called Balls that wasn’t about sports, if you know what I mean. But she’s raised the stakes on Exodus of Venus, crafting (along with guitarist, songwriter and producer Dexter Green) a stunning album of soulful rock, tempered by her country leanings, but 110% Cook.
Just reading the titles clues you into the state of her life the last few years- “Straightjacket Love” or “Slow Pain” and each one is a slice of life told truthfully albeit painfully. “Methadone Blues” starts with a wicked keyboard part, and Cook drawling playfully “Now don’t be a doubter and don’t be a cynic/All I need is a ride to the clinic” and by the end, she makes squalor sound damn near fun. “Cutting Diamonds”, co-written with Todd Snider is a brooding look at life on the streets, and “Orange Blossom Trail” is the sort of funky, bluesy song that Grace Potter is known for (those two should record together). Cook sounds in total control throughout, hard as nails, matching Green’s slick sound-crafting note for note.
By the time the record ends with the heartbreaking “Tabitha Tuder’s Mama” you’re wrung out, spent with emotion and in awe of Elizabeth Cook’s talent. Exodus of Venus is a confessional, a hard-fought battle laid out in 3 minute songs. You’ll likely hear nothing better this year.