New York. London. LA. Firebrand. Punk. Renegade. Bold-faced icon. Startling songwriter. Grammy nominee. Pop sensation. Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Award winner. Record setter. Brash live force. Brazen recording artist. Spider monkey on a tear.
What if the story began with a banjo? With a residency trying to figure out writing songs? Perhaps a high gloss, but busted life and ultimately a secessionist raising in Jackson, Ohio? No wonder Elle King is hotter than a pepper sprout. Even more than ZFG attitude, there’s the forthright attack on a life lived frayed at the edges and pulling at the scenes. Sure, she had famous parents, but when it gets real for King, it all happens with her Maw-Maw and Paw-Paw in a scrappy Southern Ohio town that puts the “just” in getting by.
“Home isn’t a longitude, latitude or a place,” King begins, explaining what anchors the energetic songwriter. “It’s the fucking people. My grandfather was a carpenter who had a shed, where he always played country music. PawPaw always had a truck, some kind of Ford Ranger – and he had dogs that are mongrel dogs, typically used for hunting; they lived outside and barked their heads off.
“My Grandfather’s a hunter; everybody’s a hunter because they’re all poor and they eat everything they kill. Squirrel, deer, snapping turtle, whatever, people ate it all. (Back home) the coal mine shafts and factories closed down. My Grandfather was a railroad conductor for CSX, but it’s tough there but there’s a lot of beauty because it’s also a little untouched. The people have so much to them. My Maw-Maw worked hard to create a beautiful home and make us all feel loved. I say how proud I am about where I come from, because I see how they live, how hard they work, they dream. They party fucking hard and we laugh; we don’t cry unless we’re laughing. Not just my family, but the next generations of these smart people who know how to get by.”
It all permeates “Ohio,” the opening track on Come Get Your Wife. Banjo-plinking, yearning vocal, the wide-open suggests the pull of where – and how – she grew up. Intoning “Find me singing on a back porch swingin’/ Cur dogs barkin, left my dip in the kitchen/ That’s when it hit me... I’ve been gone to long,” King’s roots run deep and honest in the realm of country music.
With a tumble and King’s power-delivery, there’s no doubt about how things go down. That same fervor informs the “Ex’s & Oh’s” bad match bookend “Try Jesus,” awash in thick gospel choir wail and just enough church organ to witness.