Cookin': Catch a prodigy while you can

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The HooK: MUSIC REVIEW- Cookin': Catch a prodigy while you can



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Holiday 36


MUSIC REVIEW- Cookin': Catch a prodigy while you can



Published March 17, 2005, in issue 0411 of the Hook

Eli Cook
at Fellini's No. 9
Saturday, March 12

BY MARK GRABOWSKI TUNES@READTEHOOK.COM

If I weren't so concerned with the moral decline of society born of uncaring media and outrageous consumerism, I would put together a 17-word string of explicatives to describe and honor my first experience seeing 17-year-old blues guitarist Eli Cook and his Red House Blues Band.

Their performance at Fellini's No. 9 last Saturday night was quite literally one of the best– if not the best– musical experience I've ever had in Charlottesville. Cook doesn't just play exceptionally well for someone his age, he plays exceptionally well for someone of any age, in any age. He's a prodigy, with enough soul in him now to match someone with years of experience, and the chops to flaunt it.

Except for a few stuttered guitar notes and what I believe was the sound of Cook dropping his A string to D (called drop D, it allows the guitar to be played in a different fashion than standard tuning), Fellini's was quiet right up until Cook et al. began their blitzkrieg. Then suddenly the lights went low, and with a bang, the trio was off.

On the first tune, a shuffling blues instrumental, Cook began his guitar slinging slowly, following the main riff and speeding up his dancing fingers as well as their placement on the fretbord. Finding a bass player who could complement Cook's virtuosity must have been quite a feat, but the musician definitely got his man. As he teased the scales of the instrument, there was nothing more you could ask him to contribute to the trio's sound.

On the next tune, a more standard blues piece, Cook took on the vocal duties, and from the first syllable, all heads turned to the stage with looks of amazement. The 17-year-old's deep baritone, with its slightly slurred country nuances, is phenomenal, and its broken-in quality was completely unexpected in someone so young.

Hendrix would be a major touchstone when attempting a description of Cook's voice, but the latter's is more pleasing to the ear, and seemed to be more flexible in its range. Cook employed every trick in the blues book for his solos, even edging on '80s shredding at certain points, but without losing the deep sad vibe he seems to know so well.

Chuck Berry's "Riding Along In My Automobile" was another highlight of the set, Cook laying down even more complex and colorful blues lead work between the vocal lines than the master. Cook pulled the song off, no question, his southern twang coming out in full force here. Later in the set, Jerry Lee Lewis's "Great Balls of Fire" made an outstanding transition from piano to Cook's guitar antics, keeping all the fire of the original.

Without swearing, it's hard to get across the utter amazement that overcame me last Saturday night. You need to see this guy before time takes him away from us into the bright lights of the big time.


Eli Cook and the Red House Blues Band

PHOTO BY MÁIRE CORCORAN

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