Elizabeth Cook blends tenacity with tradition for Welder, embracing traditional backwoods country twang, some bluegrass, and a touch of rockabilly while adding her own progressive spin and pop edginess. The daughter of country musicians and welders, for whom the album was named, Cook effectively utilizes these aforementioned influences to raise her fist to integral feminist themes like independence, sexual expression and assertion. An inspired production by Don Was helps to paint these emotionally expressive tales that cut to the bone yet have appeal for a more mainstream audience. Back vocals from Buddy Miller, Dwight Yoakam and Rodney Crowell further add to this colorful mosaic that offers the listener beseeching love song narratives and catchy, yet ornery bucolic anecdotes.
Welder runs a zigzag marathon from point A to Z, and then back to C. “All The Time” starts it all with endearing Dolly-style twang vocals that make you smile and pine for that effortless grating raw emotion somehow missing from current pop country mainstays. “El Camino” utilizes its playful soft pitter patter to create tongue-in-cheek banter about premarital sexcapades in a creepy ’72 El Camino. Cook then jumps from silly to emotionally cutting and intense with “Heroin Addict Sister,” further reflecting the underlying progressive nature of the record, lamenting about the sister’s painful life of drug abuse and prostitution. The mood changes yet again with “Yes To Booty,” a tribute to sober honky tonk sex that has potential sing-a-long cult status, where thousands cry “come on say no to beer and say yes to booty.” Cook’s cover of Frankie Miller’s “Blackland Farmer” is as simple and effective as it gets; her warm gooey alto vocals melt atop the simple, yet compelling, lyrics offering gritty realism and keen insight. “Girlfriend Tonight” works the pedal steel into lush harmonious grandeur to help capture the sentiment in the lyrical content, “Honey I know that I am just your wife / I wanna be your girlfriend tonight.” “I’m Beginning To Forget” covers a song written by Cook’s late mother and is lovingly sung with Rodney Crowell.
Welder succeeds in pushing the envelope of Americana standards by melding them all with a variety of far-reaching themes and influences. Moving between stark, emotionally cutting and intense to amusing honky tonk clichés could either confuse listeners, or, be perceived as a well-rounded exploration of life. Cook should be given credit for her ability to turn the twang on and off when it suits the song, as well as for using satirical idioms that don’t usually flow, but she makes it all work. Compelling themes that go to the limits, both high and low, accentuate the harshness of life and the beauty of it all in its simplest form.