Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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***1/2

ELIZABETH COOK
Balls
31 Tigers

Rodney Crowell-produced country with cojones

The album title is a contraction -- in full, the relevant song is called "Sometimes It Takes Balls to Be a Woman." For this moonshiner's daughter (her bio says), having balls doesn't equal singing on steroids like Trace Adkins or LeAnn Rimes. Instead, Cook rides her Deep South twang so hard you'd never figure she knew what "vernacular" meant. Only she does, been to college, too, and she's not ashamed of it. Rodney Crowell produced her fourth album, and though she didn't write the best thing here, the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning," it's got competition. Title track is recommended to Gretchen Wilson, and the lead "Times Are Tough in Rock 'n Roll" is forgiven for disparaging this magazine because catchy cris de coeur needn't be PC by us. From "Down Girl" to "Gonna Be," Cook clearly knows a woman's downs and ups. And you won't catch her putting her man on a pedestal anymore, either.

Rolling Stone, May 31, 2007