TERRE HAUTE — Tim Carroll watched himself on national TV last Sunday, playing guitar alongside his wife, singer Elizabeth Cook.
He heard “CBS Sunday Morning” music critic Bill Flanagan describe Elizabeth’s new album as “a real breath of fresh air.” Flanagan compared her to Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton, adding another glowing review to a list that includes Rolling Stone, The Tennessean and the New York Times.
Carroll also is receiving good marks for a pair of compositions and the guitar work he contributed to her CD. Not bad for a guy who literally heard his calling as a kid growing up in West Terre Haute. (He once rode horseback through the woods toward the source of a cool sound, a rehearsing garage band.)
“It’s kind of rewarding to see some results that are right in front of you,” Carroll said of their moment on CBS last Sunday.
Yes, you could see Tim and Elizabeth on “CBS Sunday Morning” or read about them in Nashville’s The Tennessean, but you’ll probably not hear mainstream country radio play Cook’s new single. The obstacle isn’t necessarily the name of the song, which is also the title of her album — “Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman” or just “Balls” for short, so to speak.
Actually, the problem is that Cook’s recordings sound more like Loretta Lynn than Carrie Underwood. Though her disc is one of the feel-good hits of this summer, it’s too country for country.
“It’s a shame that Elizabeth Cook, who’s a real country artist who’s played the Grand Ole Opry 250 times, can’t get played on country radio,” said Traci Thomas of 31 Tigers Records, the hard-working, independent Nashville label created solely to handle “Balls.”
The song has cracked the top 10 of the Americana charts, bouncing up from No. 11 to No. 8 this week. Americana radio is a home for outside-of-the-box country artists, and “Balls” — with sprinklings of Carroll’s Merle-Haggard-meets-The-Clash leanings — is a perfect example.
And though Cook’s blonde image, playful Southern alto and gifted song writing dominates this 11-song album, her husband’s influences are clearly present. Carroll brought a rock ’n’ roll spirit to Nashville, after moving from West Terre Haute to Bloomington (where he played in a punk band, the Gizmos, while attending Indiana University), to New York City (where he played with the alt-country Blue Chieftans, while working on Wall Street). He soon developed a reputation as a songwriter’s songwriter, a musician’s musician, and a club-goer’s favorite.
“Everybody who was anybody in Nashville knew who Tim Carroll was,” Cook recalled.
He and Elizabeth met at a recording session in the mid-1990s. “He says he thought I was ‘wife material,’ which I’m not sure how I feel about that,” she joked.
Since they’ve been together, Carroll has performed alongside Cook at the Grand Ole Opry, in Ryman Auditorium and around the world, while also maintaining a steady stream of gigs with his own punk-country trio. He’s recorded four albums of his own and continues to write, but also is a rock of support for Elizabeth’s career, setting up sound equipment, playing a wicked guitar and driving their car. On Tuesday, they drove from their home in Nashville to North Carolina, where Elizabeth began a tour that will swing from Alabama to Colorado.
“He’s so selfless and so generous,” she said by cell phone, while Tim navigated through interstate traffic. “With his talent, I know deep in my heart, without his contributions, things wouldn’t be sitting where they are today.”
Take the song off “Balls” that really has the critics buzzing, “Sunday Morning.” She delivers a captivating, laid-back rendition of this 1967 song by Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Famers the Velvet Underground. Cook was born in 1972 in Wildwood, Fla., the daughter of a dad who learned to play bass while spending 11 years in prison for moonshining, and a mom who strummed banjos and mandolins in country bars.
Tim, 47, first exposed Elizabeth to Velvet Underground, pulling the band’s “Nico” album from a shoe box of cassettes in their basement. And after rehearsals for “Balls,” producer Rodney Crowell — a country artist who also produced CDs by Roseanne Cash and others — suggested including “Sunday Morning.”
“Tim has been a huge influence on me, and continues to be more and more so,” Elizabeth said.
Though Carroll says his own musical sensibilities are less “slick and clean” than Crowell’s, the veteran producer was eventually won over.
Crowell told the Nashville Scene, “I think Tim Carroll’s contributions were important. He brings a little punk to it, just a little sprinklin’ of punk attitude.”
Using classic country arrangements hinged more on fiddles than top-40 guitar fuzz. Cook, Carroll, Crowell and an assortment of Nashville musicians completed the album in three days. Despite that relatively brisk pace, the CD — Cook’s fourth — “might be getting closer and closer to her best work,” Tim said, taking his turn on the cell phone once they arrived in North Carolina.
The collection closes, fittingly, with a song they co-wrote, “Gonna Be,” followed by Elizabeth’s version of a hopeful tune Tim wrote and recorded in 2002 called “Always Tomorrow.” In “Gonna Be,” they write, “I’m not a has-been; I’m still a gonna-be. You just wait and see. You just wait and see. Keep looking out for me.”
In real life, Tim and Elizabeth have a schedule full of gigs ahead of them, “and we want more,” he said.
Two years ago, their travels brought them through Terre Haute, which Elizabeth called “a nostalgic experience” for Tim, whose family moved to Oregon after he’d graduated from West Vigo High School in 1977. Their tour detours also have taken them to Wildwood, Fla., a town her family — which included 11 children — left long ago, too. The struggles of life in the Deep South, as well as those in the years that followed, are fully expressed in “Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman.”
The latest dose of critical success sweetens their journey.
“It’s so great to have a partner in a marriage and to be able to share all of this with him,” Elizabeth said.
Mark Bennett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (812) 231-4377.
TERRE HAUTE — Tim Carroll watched himself on national TV last Sunday, playing guitar alongside his wife, singer Elizabeth Cook.
- Local & Bistate
Jury returns split verdict in Ross assault case
A Vigo County jury has found James Madison Ross IV not guilty of involuntary manslaughter but guilty of battery resulting in serious bodily injury.
Car rolls several times in a.m. crash, drunk driving suspected
A Terre Haute man is facing drunk driving allegations after a dramatic crash about 4 a.m. today in southern Vigo County.
Equipment to arrive Dec. 14 for oil drilling at Indiana State
After nearly two years of planning and surveying, oil drilling is about to begin on Indiana State University property.
Year nearing its end: 12-month celebration of Wabash spanned Valley
Throughout this year, events and activities have focused attention on the Wabash River through Terre Haute, Vigo County and surrounding counties. It’s been called 2013 Year of the River. On Tuesday, Art Spaces Inc. and Arts Illiana presented a wrapup of the observance’s events.
Cultural planning: Consultant to help city reach arts district designation
Terre Haute officials want a portion of the downtown to be designated by the Indiana Arts Commission as one of the state’s cultural arts districts.
Sheriff: School officers have been a win-win
Placing armed officers in all Vigo County schools not only protects children and staff from violent acts, it also has helped prevent negative behaviors in the schools — both on the part of students and adults.
Gov. Pence details 2014 education agenda
Now that reform has been implemented, Gov. Mike Pence said Tuesday it’s time for Indiana’s legislature to focus on education innovation
Terre Haute man sentenced to Federal Prison
A Terre Haute man has been sentenced to 11 years, three months in federal prison on charges of possession of child pornography.
Closing arguments today in Ross assault trial
Testimony began and concluded Tuesday in the trial of a Terre Haute man accused of battering a person who later died at the Vigo County Jail.
Victim of Monday Parke crash ID’d
Police have identified the victim in a fatal car accident in Parke County on Monday. Linda Chaney, 75, of Reelsville was driving south on Indiana 59 south of Mansfield when her vehicle left the road and struck a tree. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
State Police arrest impaired truck driver
An Illinois semi-trailer driver has been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after registering more than three times the legal limit on a blood-alcohol test.
ISP arrest impaired semi driver in Putnam County
An Illinois semitrailer driver has been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after registering more than three times the legal limit on a blood-alcohol test.
Trial begins in manslaughter case
Testimony began today in the trial of a Terre Haute man accused of battering a person who later died at the Vigo County Jail.
Driver ID’d in Monday’s fatal car crash in Parke County
Police have identified the victim in Monday’s fatal car accident in Parke County.
The driver, Linda Chaney, 75, of Reelsville, was driving south on Indiana 59 south of Mansfield when her vehicle left the road and struck a tree. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Vigo County Jail Log: Dec. 10, 2013
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Monday and Tuesday, based on jail records.
Christmas in the Park: Judges survey lights; Troop 200 comes out on top
The rockin’ snowmen were singing “I can’t get no satisfaction,” but they won first place anyway.
Board of Works: Sewage fees waived on Indiana 46
The Terre Haute Board of Works and Public Safety approved a memorandum of understanding Monday between the board and the Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment to waive sewer connection fees along part of Indiana 46/U.S. 40 on the city’s east side to promote future development.
VCSC Board approves oil, Pepsi contracts, gets ‘beard fund’
The Vigo County School Board approved a six-year exclusive agreement with Refreshments Services Pepsi and an oil and gas license with Pioneer Oil during Monday’s School Board meeting.
Agency seeks help for homeless
A Terre Haute agency that works to help homeless people hopes that other groups wanting to help will get involved to better document the needs in the Wabash Valley.
2 days, 2 fatal car wrecks in Parke County
The Parke County Sheriff’s Department has investigated two fatal accidents over the past two days, at least one caused by black ice, authorities say.
Tribune-Star staff takes awards for writing, editing, design
The Tribune-Star won three first-place awards among Indiana newspapers with a daily circulation between 18,001 and 39,999 in the 2013 Hoosier State Press Association Better Newspaper Contest.
Aviation plant noted for safety system
GE Aviation in Terre Haute has earned the Voluntary Protection Program Merit Certification for implementing safety systems that identify, evaluate, prevent and control occupational hazards to prevent employee injuries and illnesses.
Ivy Tech board awards renovation contract
Renovation of the Learning Achievement Building for the use of diesel technology gained unanimous approval Monday from Ivy Tech Community College Wabash Valley’s Board of Trustees.
Jury selection begins for death of inmate
Jury selection began Monday afternoon for a Terre Haute man accused of involuntary manslaughter in January.
James Madison Ross IV, 40, appeared in Vigo Superior Court 1 with defense attorney Christopher Shema.
Rockville man on run found, arrested
A Rockville man faces criminal charges after a domestic disturbance and a three-hour manhunt.
Battery, stabbing suspects face charges
The condition has improved for a Terre Haute man who sustained severe head injuries in an assault on Friday afternoon.
Man picked out of lineup, charged with armed robbery
A Terre Haute man faces two counts of armed robbery stemming from a November incident in which two men were robbed at gunpoint near 10th and Locust streets.
Teen hero, 16, fatally shot in Indiana home
An Indiana teenager who helped save two children after they fell into an icy reservoir in 2010 was killed Sunday in a shooting in an Indianapolis suburb.
Indianapolis boy dies after collapsing in snow
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Police in Indianapolis say a seventh-grade boy has died after apparently collapsing and being found face down in the snow.
Vigo County Jail Log: Dec. 9, 2013
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, based on jail records.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- Jury returns split verdict in Ross assault case