The larger bodies of country music and blues music have always fed from a stream of gospel music. Musicians reared in the Bible Belt, from Hank Williams to Blind Willie Johnson, stylistically moved deftly from Saturday night revelry to Sunday morning revelations mirroring the actual behavior of many of their fans. Hell even Elvis, the poster boy for over-indulgence, took time to record no less than 8 gospel and Christmas albums over his career.
Influenced by a recent performance at the Strawberry Music Festival’s Sunday morning gospel brunch, the recent passing of both her mother and father, and ongoing family strife detailed in her last album’s bittersweet “Heroin Addict Sister” has Elizabeth Cook getting right with Jesus. Or at least feeling enough of the spirit move her to release this wonderful seven song EP.
Blind Willie Johnson’s “If I Had My Way, I’d Tear This Building Down” is foot-stomper straight from the good book of Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
The title cut a traditional American folk song also known as “Hold On,” and refers to the Gospel According to Luke 9:62. In the passage Jesus replied to the
reluctant disciple in the face of his wavering faith “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” This song and “Hear Jerusalem Calling” by Jerry Sullivan & Tammy Sullivan has Cook and band, husband Tim Carroll on guitar and Bones Hillman (Midnight Oil) on bass, as a bluegrass romping breakdown
“Every Humble Knee Must Bow” borrows a swampy vibe from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Heard It Through The Grapevine,” Hammond organ, barrel-house piano and electric guitar steep the tune in sweet Southern soul.
Vern Gosdin’s “The Other Side of Life’ is a beautiful song as it is, but Cook, along with an accompanying church organ, unveils a vulnerability in it that transcends.
Cook showed her inclination for the Velvet Underground by cutting a beautiful version of “Sunday Morning’ on 2007’s “Balls.” Here she she rounds out the out the EP with an understated and elegant cover of VU’s “Jesus,” keeping just enough of Lou Reed’s somber, woozy, psychedelic tone in this tale of a lost soul looking for redemption.
The only drawback is the brevity of the release. Though it’s a brief affair it’s long on excellence and, unlike the church with the long-winded preacher, you’ll wish the sermon would list a bit longer