News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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May 30, 2007

B-Sides: From the Wabash Valley to the big stage

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.

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