Elizabeth Cook, “Aftermath” (Agent Love/Thirty Tigers)
As an outlaw country disc jockey, fast-talking, y’all-ing Elizabeth Cook has a way with words, and so it goes on her new album, “Aftermath.”
The title is a reference to regrowth, and the set is heavily autobiographical, which may be why Cook is dressed like Evel Knievel’s sister on the cover. She sings about marrying badly, tequila without regret, and Southern pride and pain, or as one lyric puts it, “stories that’ll hurt ya.”
The album lacks the high hilarity of her Sirius XM show, but there are flashes of wit, such as when she rhymes watchin’ with debauchin’. And the record might set a record for references to other musicians, from George Jones and Elton John to Carole King and Kevn Kinney.
Alas, Cook’s vocals are often double-tracked or digitized in ways that distract from the words. The album was produced by Butch Walker (Fall Out Boy, Weezer, Avril Lavigne), and he guides Cook over pop terrain, with synth washes instead of steel guitar. It’s an uncomfortable fit, and as the album progresses Cook’s twang takes over.
Her most exposed vocal is the most endearing performance. Accompanying herself on guitar on the closing cut, “Mary, The Submissing Years,” Cook masterfully pays tribute to the late John Prine as she looks at the greatest story ever told from the mother’s point of view — an outlaw honoring outlaws.