The wait for new music from artists, especially artists we love can be some of the longest time periods ever for music fans. The clock speeds up any other time during one’s life, but when waiting for new music, it seems like forever. Some are able to push two albums out within one year of each other while others have to wait a bit longer.
It’s been six long years since we received a new album from Elizabeth Cook, and much like the wait for new Hayes Carll music, it’s been a long wait. A lot has happened to Elizabeth over these past six years. Her conflict with getting new music out didn’t come from label problems or a lack of a creative direction. It seemed like every time Elizabeth did want to record new music, something awful in her life happened. Over the past six years Elizabeth has suffered through six deaths of loved ones as well as a divorce and a stint in rehab. It sounds like the plotline to a good country song but it’s the harsh reality Elizabeth faced.
Make no mistake, Exodus Of Venus is a very different album for Elizabeth, one that might even be polarizing for some. It’s extremely dark and moody, but not in a way that makes the album esoteric or unenjoyable. The spitfire attitude that we’ve all come to know and love from Elizabeth is very well and alive on this album, just shown in a different way. Unlike her past albums that spitfire attitude doesn’t stem from humor, it stems from the darkness of her life that has accompanied her all these years.
Right away from the lead off title track, Elizabeth Cook shows how much her storytelling as well as her sound has changed. The track is led off by sizzling, bluesy, swampy electric guitars that really symbolize the album’s sound at its core – dark and rocking. Indeed, “Evacuation”, “Slow Pain”, and “Cutting Diamonds” all are dark and moody, with “Dyin’” being the most seemingly personal track of this dark bunch.
If you’re looking for the “country” portion of this album, well it may be hard to find. I stated this album was different for a reason. Those looking for Elizabeth to emulate Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton like she has on past records may be a bit disappointed but for those who are music fans at the core, Exodus Of Venus is an excellent album. That’s not to say that Elizabeth has completely abandoned her roots though. “Straightjacket Love” find Elizabeth transitioning from Applachian bluegrass style verses to rocking choruses joined by Patty Loveless. The sound on paper reads like a strange combination but you’d be surprised to hear how well it works. “Methadone Blues” carries on the story of “Heroin Addict’s Sister” from 2010’s Welder seemingly to have something to connect this album to Elizabeth’s past work. A personal favorite of mine comes from the track “Dharma Gate” due to its spacey, melancholy atmosphere. There’s something about Elizabeth’s haunting vocals on this track that just suck you in. Of course, the crown jewel of the album comes at the end with “Tabitha Tuder’s Mama” which highlights the story of Tabitha Tuders, a young girl who went missing in 2003 and whose case recently resurfaced due to new information surrounding the case. In this song Elizabeth asks the listener to pray for Tabitha’s mother, as the effects of losing a child, especially for so long have to be traumatizing.
My only personal complaint with Exodus Of Venus is that the production seems to be a little too “same-y” in some spots, most notably at the beginning of the album. Looking past that however, this album is a valiant return for Elizabeth. The sound may turn away hardcore fans but when the choice of the sound change comes from the artist, how can you fault them for making the album they wanted to make? It’s been a long wait for this album, and it’s certainly good to have Elizabeth back in the musical discussion.