In 2012 guitarist Eli Cook released his CD, Ace, Jack & King to great acclaim in both the rock world and the blues-rock world. Highly rated among the new breed of American blues-rock guitarists / composers / vocalists making waves in the early 21st century, Eli Cook carries the spirit of the blues forward with his 2014 album entitled Primitive Son. As excellent as Ace, Jack & King is, Eli’s Primitive Son album is even more commercially accessible, no doubt inspired by guest appearances from big name artists such as fellow guitarists Leslie West, Sonny Landreth, Pat Travers, Harvey Mandel and Tinsley Ellis as well as drummer Vinny Appice and many other fine players. Even with such a star-studded lineup of artists enhancing the festivities, Eli also gets solid support from his core rhythm section of Rob Richmond (bass) and Wade Warfield (drums). For a younger musician, Cook raises the roof and gets excellent mileage out of his guit-arsenal throughout the CD. With its wide ranging selection of driving, electric blues-rock numbers, Primitive Son is Cook’s first album on Cleopatra Records, a label well known for teaming up artists on various albums, tributes and compilations. Eli’s implementation of Cleopatra’s super-session logic puts a glossy shine on an album that sonically blasts blues-rock deeper into the 21st century.
mwe3: Where are you living now and where are you from originally?
ELI COOK: I am currently making camp in Charlottesville, Virginia. I grew up in the rural agricultural area just south of town. It is an ideal local; rural and beautiful but with a progressive, small-college town nearby that really supports the arts, and no more than 7 or 8 hours from most of the primary east coast cities.
mwe3: How did the Primitive Son album take shape and how would you compare it to your last album, Ace, Jack & King both in style and content?
ELI COOK: Primitive Son was an amalgamation of the roots/blues/grunge-metal approach that I have been developing over several records and a more melodic, less intense vibe; mainly because it is a label release and also because so many of the tunes feature guest artist appearances. I had to keep the song-writing in a more “mass-appeal” kind of format.
The album is by far the most professional sounding that I have done. We took a lot of time tweaking the production value; guitar tones, vocal performances, etc. and it was really my first swing at a commercial product.
I would say that my “sound” is much richer now than before. The songs vary more dramatically in feel, vibe, etc., but they all sit together well. Whereas before, recording projects tended to lean heavily in one direction as far as overall mood, this one moves around more… there is light and dark, so to speak. I think that is a sign of musical maturity… at least I hope that’s what it is!
mwe3: What were the recording sessions like and did you get to record in the same room with some of the guest artists?
ELI COOK: I got to record in the room, live with Vinny Appice and Jorgen Carlsson for the song “Revelator”. That was a wonderful experience that will stay with me. They are both incredible players, and it manifests both in their performance and in their interaction with others. It was very zen, but in an extremely efficient and bad-ass way.
I also got to work with Artimus Pyle in person in the studio. He is a classic 1960′s style player, and that really came through in the track. It helped define the parts and how the piece would flow, and was very different from the other songs because of that.
Leslie West is an idol of mine, hands down. I got my Les Paul Junior because of him. We did not get to meet during the recording process, but I feel very honored to have him guest on the track “Motor Queen”. I thought it would be only fitting to have Leslie jam on the most honky-tonkin’ bar rock number on the album!
ELI COOK: Thanks to the internet, blues-rock is readily available to study. But the real deal is still an emotion, and that cannot be impersonated; it is only an expression of life experience. Did John Lee Hooker think about commercial status initially? Maybe later in his career, but in the beginning he was purely being himself. That is what makes great art: genuine self-expression. So, if you want to experience the real deal, you still need to go to a live show… and you still need to invest the time and money into buying a record in-person and listening to it.
mwe3: What guitars are you playing on the Primitive Son album and did you use use a lot of effects and sonic enhancing devices? How about amps that you favor in the studio and on stage?
ELI COOK: Many… mostly P-90 equipped axes. I mainly play a Strat live, but for recording, I find that P-90′s make a nice “best of both worlds”.
As far as effects, I use amp gain, a little crybaby wah wah, and some delay. You can play a show with any band using that. The purest signal possible is a good axe and a quality amp; a musical player will make that work. I used multiple amps; JCM 800 Marshall, a Super-Reverb, an Egnator, an old Champ… and that, plus the guitar, is what makes the sound.
mwe3: What are your plans for 2014? Tell us about the tour coming up and what directions you’re planning to take your music in next.
ELI COOK: In 2014 I am touring the US and promoting the new album. I have a few great opening slots for Tab Benoit, John Mayall and others. There is another album in the early stages of preproduction already, also. And as always, I am constantly looking for new artists to work with and listen to… there is a lot left to learn! I would like to do a heavier rock album, and I would also like to do a more rootsy, acoustic recording in the near future.
Thanks to Eli Cook and Neva Cook at www.EliCook.com