FridaysUpdate- Come hungry: Eli cooks up a cohesive sound

eli_cookEli Cook with a guitar signed by blues legend BB King.

When it comes to local blues musician Eli Cook, one could argue that he doesn't quite fit the college-aged norm. While many peers are busily downloading songs online and ripping them from albums, the 23-year-old Cook doesn't just disapprove of piracy, he even frowns on paying for individual songs when there's an album to be heard.

"It's kind of a bummer if [an artist] puts all that effort into a record and creating a cohesive work of art," he laments. "If you only buy one song, you don't get the whole picture."

Both as a musician and a fan (who claims to have over 1,000 CDs in his car), Cook seems to be preaching an antiquated practice to his generation. But he's already shown a willingness to forge an unusual path.

Starting his music career in churches and coffee houses at the age of fifteen, he eventually chose teaching music lessons over going to school for formal training. He says the strategy paid off with greater clarity and improved his own music.

"By teaching," he says, "you focus on different ways to approach all sorts of music."

Growing up on blues and classic rock, Cook taught himself guitar off the records of Mississippi John Hurt and Muddy Waters. And already, Cook has released three critically acclaimed CDs and played with some of the best names in the business–- opening for B.B. King and playing alongside African percussionist Darrell Rose at the Kennedy Center–- all while experimenting with a rootsy, more contemporary sound.

"No matter what I do, the blues aspect is going to remain pretty strong and noticeable," Cook says. "It's a solid base for all the music I play with my rock band– I'm moving more into the singer/songwriter direction, though with a strong blues-rock edge."

As Cook continues experimenting with different sounds and textures, he says he should have two new albums ready by the end of the summer. The first, a solo record, will draw from the singer/songwriter direction, while the second will continue his band's electric-blues focus.

But regardless of which "weird" sounds he blends together, Cook hopes his work will bring new listeners to the blues tradition on which he grew up.

"I would never have the audacity to say I could do justice as well as the originals," he laughs. "The best I could hope for would be that the music I make pays tribute to them and would inspire the people that hear me to have more interest in those artists as well."

Eli Cook plays Fridays After Five on 8/7. Pantherburn opens. The show starts at 5:30 pm, and admission is free.

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Kudos to Eli. Rock it, my brother.

ROCK ON ELI!!!!!!!