By Bill Friskics-Warren
The title of Elizabeth Cook's fifth album is both a nod to her moonshiner father, who learned to weld while doing time in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, and a clue as to her musical modus operandi. Namely, to unite an assortment of free-spirited performers to forge an enduring strain of country-based roots music that's entirely her own.
(Endless guests make for many highlights, after the jump.)
Working with producer Don Was, Cook enlists not only the heady likes of Buddy Miller, Dwight Yoakam and Rodney Crowell for vocal support but also the Carol Lee Singers, the venerable chorus from the Grand Ole Opry, the institution that embraced Cook when Nashville's Music Row wouldn't. The swaggering "Rock n Roll Man" is galvanized by gutbucket guitar playing from Cook's husband, Tim Carroll, about whom she wrote the song. "Not California," a dusky ballad, features acoustic guitar from Gary Maurer of the Americana chamber group Hem.
"Welder" ranges stylistically from acoustic barnyard romps ("All the Time") to bluesy Southern rockers ("El Camino") to a torchy ballad worth of Opry star Jeannie Seely. This is to say nothing of the range of emotion on the record, from the roaring "Yes to Booty" to the disarmingly gorgeous "Heroin Addict Sister," a lament for a junkie ex-stripper who's been married five times and likes to crochet. Best of all, though, is an elegiac reverie about the funeral of Cook's mother, where "organs didn't play, but you could hear the lonesome sway of the local guitar man" as "the boys drank beer out by the barn."
Cook plays the Birchmere on Thursday.
Recommended tracks: "All the Time," "Yes to Booty," "Mama's Funeral"