Marital bliss and more
informs the Maryland duo’s dreamy Americana. Their tour
starts this week.
BY AARON KAYCE
Have you ever woken from sleep and wondered if you were
still dreaming? Momentarily stuck between worlds where time is suspended? This
is the music of Cotton Jones. A beautiful place where it could be dusk or it
might dawn. Where guitars feel more like fractured rays of sun and vocals waft
in a haze of echo and reverb.
“I think a lot of the songs are kind of dream sequence sorts
of songs,” says bandleader Michael Nau. “I feel like a lot of it’s [the new
album] written that way where it’s not too specific to our everyday
Tall Hours in the
Glowstream (Suicide Squeeze) is the second full-length from Cotton Jones.
Originally called the Cotton Jones Basket Ride, the band features
guitarist/vocalist Nau along with keyboardist/vocalist Whitney McGraw and is
essentially an extension of their previous band Page France. No one, including Nau, is
exactly sure why Page France
was rechristened Cotton Jones, but in 2009 the change was solidified with the
band’s woozy lo-fi Americana
debut Paranoid Cocoon.
Though Nau references as influences Harry Nilsson, Bob Dylan and the gospel
songs his mom and dad used to sing, he says this album was informed more by his
home in Cumberland, Maryland, than any artist or specific
The glowstream alludes to a rolling body of water on the
border of Maryland and West Virginia. “It’s a place like nowhere
else where everything sort of slows down. It’s kind of a sentimental title for
me” says Nau. “[It] represents a couple places where friends and family always
go to hang out and spend their evenings.”
In October of 2009 Nau and McGraw got married. They met long
ago in their tiny hometown and have been together for as long as anyone can
remember. And though there’s a loose collective of regular musicians who help
flesh out Cotton Jones, most of them participants in Page France as well, if
anything defines the band it’s the duo’s ethereal harmonies that often call to
mind Johnny and June Carter Cash.
Getting hitched not only affected their personal lives, it
created a new space for their music to breathe. Sort of like seeing the forest
through the trees: by taking a step back, the band’s music came into focus.
“Whitney and I have always worked together, but it’s changed
since we’ve been spending every day in the same house” reflects Nau. “Having
two or more parts to my life, where music is not all consuming, I was able to
feel certain things more than I’ve ever been able.”
One thing Nau is feeling appears to be tranquility; marrying
your true love will do that for a man. It’s not that Paranoid Cocoon was particularly depressing, but even the name
hints at something dark and ominous. “I feel that Glowstream is a lot more of an upper, it’s a positive record” he
says, with a hint of pride. “It’s hopeful and I’ve been trying to really
practice patience in my life and not get so down on myself about the way things
Somewhere in the glowstream Michael Nau and Whitney McGraw
have found their voice as Cotton Jones. The music they make is an open
invitation to float along with them and let the spirit carry you away. All it
takes is for you to press play; don’t get left behind.
Cotton Jones kicks off
a North American tour this week with Nicole Atkins. Check tour dates at their
[Photo Credit: Todd Roeth]