2002: "Hey Y'all"
2005: "This Side of the Moon"
2012: "Gospel Plow" (EPP)
What: Nightfall concert series featuring Elizabeth Cook
When: 8 p.m. Friday, June 7; Dismembered Tennesseans open at 7
Where: Miller Plaza, corner of M.L. King Boulevard, Market and Cherry streets
Venue website: www.nightfallchattanooga.com
Artist website: www.elizabeth-cook.com
Dismembered Tennesseans is one of Chattanooga's most longest-running bands and arguably its most high-profile bluegrass act. Founded by fiddler and philanthropist Fletcher Bright while attending McCallie School in 1945, Dismembered Tennesseans have played fiery traditional bluegrass all over the country and appeared onstage with the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera as well as in televised performances on ABC's "Nightly News" and NBC's "Today." For more information, visit the band's website at www.dismemberedtennesseans.com.
A little more than 12 years ago, Elizabeth Cook emerged successfully from the country music crucible after her first performance on the Grand Ole Opry stage. To many artists, the stress and thrill of playing on such a prestigious stage would have left the deepest impression.
In Cook's case, what she remembers most is how she looked.
"[It was] mortifying," Cook wrote in response to emailed questions. "I had my hair and makeup done professionally, and I looked like [honky-tonk singer] Jean Shepard."
Now 20 years into her career as one of the lucky few to successfully navigate the Nashville waters as a singer/songwriter, Cook has five albums under her belt and has returned to the Opry hundreds of times. Despite the familiarity of the surroundings, the honor of performing there is no less significant, although she says it strikes her in different ways.
"Its definitely evolved," she says. "It used to be the biggest gig I had and felt very heavy in terms of my future. Now that I see how it fits, it's a wonderful fulfillment in a different way."
Growing up in Wildwood, Fla., Cook says, she was inspired by her mother, who sang and played guitar at home in between answering the phones for her father's welding company. By grade school, she started writing her own songs, a craft she developed more fully at Georgia Southern University.
After graduating, she says, she soon realized that accounting wasn't for her, so she moved to Nashville to see if she could earn her way with her Dolly Parton-esque vocals.
In the late '90s, she recorded a series of singles she later released as her debut, "The Blue Album." At 26, she received her first recording contract, with Atlantic Records, via a fax machine at an Ace Hardware store in Wildwood while at home for a class reunion.
The relationship with Atlantic wasn't long-lasting, but it marked the start of a career that led her to the Opry, onto satellite radio as well as to international dates as far away as South Korea, Japan, Norway and Poland.
Tonight, June 6, she'll perform as part of the Scenic City Roots concert at Track 29. Friday night, June 7, she'll take the stage at Miller Plaza as this week's Nightfall headliner. Cook says she never bothers with set lists and won't know what she'll play either night until she's onstage.
Either way, she says, audiences both nights can expect sets that run the breadth of her catalog, with special emphasis on her last three albums.
"My back catalog is not exactly overexposed," she says. "I still feel that my music is new for most people, and I like doing the ones I know and [that] we are tight on and perform well."
Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.