In contemporary country music, it's a rare performer who will dare to take on the industry on her own hogs-and-kisses terms. But for the artist whom Nanci Griffith has called "this generation's Loretta Lynn," it takes a certain tenacity to meld smart attitude with classic tradition, the credibility of a life lived with genuine hillbilly passion, and the integrity to write an acclaimed cache of uncommonly cool songs. In other words, for Elizabeth Cook, it takes balls.
Balls is the bold declaration of an uncompromising artist unafraid to be exactly who she is. Produced by Rodney Crowell, nine of the album's 11 tracks are written or co-written by Elizabeth including the brash anthem "Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman" and the album stands defiant in its devotion to smiles, tears and sexy, sassy swagger. It's a fiercely independent ride where shuffles, ballads and even the occasional juice harp can soar alongside an exquisite cover of The Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning." Balls is, quite simply, Elizabeth Cook's unabashed breakthrough. "I still can't believe I got away with going into the studio and cutting these songs," she says with a laugh. "I feel like I've just robbed a convenience store." "In an era of fabricated fame, Elizabeth is the real deal," says Rodney Crowell, the legendary singer/songwriter whose work as producer has also included acclaimed records with Guy Clark, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Jim Lauderdale and five landmark albums with Roseanne Cash. "Elizabeth has a quirky Loretta sensibility that is positively poetic. She's got that Emmylou quality that inspires those around her. Then factor in her amazing family history - You simply cannot make that stuff up."
To say that Elizabeth Cook's background is like something out of a country song would be wildly underestimating the entire genre. The youngest of 11 half-brothers and sisters, she grew up in rural Florida where her musician parents met while playing in local country bars. Her father learned to play upright bass in a Georgia prison band while serving 11 years for running moonshine. Her mother, a singer and mandolin player from the hills of West Virginia, wrote her daughter's first songs, including "Does My Daddy Love The Bottle More Than He Loves Me," and had Elizabeth singing on stage at 4 years old. Elizabeth had her own band at 9 as well as the regional hit "Homework Blues" and performed prolifically throughout her school years. "The way I sound and my musical references came from what I heard and learned as a child," Elizabeth explains in her rich twang, "I had this accent when I was 2 years old. It's not an apology or even an explanation; it's just what I am. My way of talking, singing and writing is just how I use language, my cultural vernacular. The only difference between me and most of my family is knowing that there's actually a word such as 'vernacular'."