Elizabeth Cook’s last album, the Rodney Crowell-produced Balls, was straight up Dolly-worshippin’ country, full of stretchy peddle steel and yodel-peppered sass. But if Balls was chilled-in-the-box strawberry wine, Welder is mulberry-flavored moonshine: homemade, delicious and completely unsanitary.
First of all, there’s Cook’s twangy alto, which used to slip-slide melodically through her lyrics to warm, sweet-as-peach-cobbler effect; on this release, though, her voice is less massaged—shriller, harsher and even more heavily accented—and she doesn’t sing too much. Instead, she chortles and spits and coos and chants. Previous releases were sprinkled with her characteristic wit, which has gone to seed and run wild on Welder. In “El Camino” she recalls delirious sex in a 1972 refurb: “If we get married, gonna have to annul it / Right now my hands are in his mullet.” Hill-top funerals, soup kitchens and backcountry hoe-downs become the stuff of legend in Welder’s emotionally expansive tales, and though it features production by Don Was and guest appearances by Crowell and Buddy Miller, this album is all about Cook finally finding her voice—irreverent, hilarious and gritty as Appalachian soil.