Eli was born at the foot of the mountains of Virginia, and with no TV growing up, he spent Saturday nights around the radio with local shows and Prairie Home Companion. He picked up the guitar at age 13 after watching his older brother play and began to teach himself. Within two years, he was playing solo acoustic guitar for gospel revivals and electric blues in a power trio in local “juke joints.”
A student of several musical tastes, Cook took what he heard on the record player and radio melding it into his own, which makes him stand out. At 18 with a bone-shaking growl and bonafide blues guitar chops, he was received by fans and critics as a torch bearer for a slew of historical players, from Son House to Leadbelly to today’s modern players, like Chris Smither and Rory Block.
As the country sounds of Appalachia crept in, Eli did not flinch; “It didn’t seem unnatural,” says Cook, who was the product of a rural Southern upbringing where people moved easily between genres. “It’s what was around me, and I just tried to pick up on everything and everybody, including Doc Watson and Chet Atkins. In fact, hearing Chet fingerpick made me realize I didn’t need a band.” (Source: Guitar Player 2007)
No slavish dilettante or rusty, dusty blues purist, Cook has internalized his influences, including the rock of Soundgarden and Rage Against The Machine, stirring them into a musical cauldron of authentic, timeless music emanating from deep in his soul. “The reason I make a comparison between the bluesmen and the grunge guys is the feeling of authenticity in the expressions of angst that they both convey.” (Source: All About Jazz – May 2011)
His debut Moonshine Mojo in 2004 contained mostly choice classic blues covers. In 2007 both the scalding, blues rocking Electricholyfirewater, and the all-original acoustic Miss Blues’es Child made their appearance. Following were Static in the Blood (2009), an outside-the-box studio production mixing R&B and rock, Ace, Jack & King (2011), a grunge blues blast, and the all-original, explosive trio recording Primitive Son (2014) with star-studded cameos. He has toured to national acclaim, holding his own in the company of blues royalty B.B. King, Johnny Winter, Shemekia Copeland, and Gary Clark, Jr. In 2015 he was voted #3 on the prestigious UK Blues Matters Writer’s Poll for Favorite International Blues Solo Artist.
In 2017, Eli released High Dollar Gospel, on his newly minted label, C.R.8.Records and he continued to set the pace. It preached, the wooed, and it rocked, for Elmore praised Eli, “His honest, unique blend of contemporary and old-school styles guitar playing and songwriting combined with his raw, robust vocals have put him at the forefront of modern blues. Vintage Guitar magazine called the album “a fine blues record that doesn’t stick to convention.” Radio charts, shows and outstanding response to an acoustic take of “Trouble Maker” on the Vintage Guitar’s Facebook page and YouTube Channel gave some viewers a run for their money.
Eli Cook can rain down fire and brimstone in his singing, as well as express touching tenderness while pushing the musical envelope with these eight blues-fueled original tracks and two stunningly interpreted covers. He describes it as “…wanting to get something really representative of what I do now, as three-quarters of my shows are performed solo.”
Cook continues to evolve his musical presentations to accommodate various performance offers that come calling. “I loved to push my presentations in different directions, whether it be in workshops, and other venues, with other traditional American roots music elements to have more of an in-depth, cultural content to what I do. But without blues as the integral ingredient, music just ain’t worth listening to in my book.”
“Artists often talk about the blues as a living and growing thing and not just a style of music ﬁt for museums. Cook puts that theory into practice and moves things forward.”- Slant Magazine