The Delta Bluesman

by Sue Stillwagon
and Fritz Svacina

Photo ctsy Sue Stillwagon

"One of the most entertaining things about seeing Eli Cook perform is watching a 20-year-old white dude from Nelson County turn into a 76- year-old black Delta bluesman with cirrhosis and a light sprinkling of Alzheimer's. The grit emanating from his throat has always suggested respiratory distress of the highest order.

Cook doesn't just play exceptionally well for someone hisage, 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."
- The Hook Charlottesville VA


305 West 71st Street
New York, NY 10023
Ph: 212.580-9200
Fx: 212.580-9233

They say age is just a number and in the day of color-by-number teen pop tarts and derived pop bands, more than likely the younger the age, the less the credibility.

That cannot be said for twenty year old, Eli Cook. Charlottesville's best kept secret is a throw back to the day of cutting one's teeth and honing one's chops at every dive bar and country fair that would have him. Any place that would give him a chance to play, he'd take it..... just to play.

"I started performing when I was fifteen, all solo, all blues... a lot of Mississippi John Hurt and Robert Johnson material."
This was only a year alter actually picking up the guitar and learning to play.

"My parents had a pretty large record collection thatfeatured a lot of old blues: Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, etc. These records were really what inspired me to play guitar, so I began with the old Delta stuff and worked my way up to people like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan," states Cook.

As his mother recalls, he was about fourteen when he heard a blues song by Mississippi John Hurt on the radio. It happened to be the one his older sister, Sabra, used to play on her guitar when he was a baby.

"Six months later, he was playing," she said. "He didn't play the guitar; the guitar sang as soon as he touched it."

On his Valley Entertainment debut, Miss Blues'es Child, Cook pays homage to traditional blues with little more than an acoustic guitar. And with an age beyond his years, celebrates the traditional without being predictable. "By no means is it all twelve-bar," he says. "I avoided a lot of twelve-bar blues and went straight for the old-school, one-chord stuff. That's actually some of my favorite stuff, the eerie dark tunes by R. L. Burnside and Fred McDowell - not so much the white blues."

Cook easily integrates his own compositions with the old, introspective nitty, gritty tracks on Miss Blues 'es Child (the first solo/acoustic recording of Eli Cook). Songs like the title track or "Don't Ride My Pony" can easily be mistaken for old Southern blues standards unearthed and roughly polished for a new era.

Cook has now graduated from the church revivals and gospel sings to performing with African percussionist Darrell Rose at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage in Washington and opening for B.B. King at a sold-out show at The Paramount Theatre in Charlottesville - and artists like Johnny Winter, Shemekia Copeland and The Nighthawks.
His club shows are now usually sold out as well as the word-of-mouth spreads.

However, Cook takes it all with a grain of salt. "I realize that there are quite a large number of people that play music," he said.
"I don't have any visions of grandeur."

"I try not to stress about anything and stay low key. I like to play and would love to be able to make a living doing it, but I try not to get ahead of myself and just have fun with it."

Eli Cook's new arrangement of this great American folk/blues song are really timeless and top intense Delta Blues.----- FS

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