Sonya Cotton – It Is So

January 01, 1970



That gravity and finality of the album title should be
instructive – “it is so.” San Fran songbird Cotton (also a member of folk-duo
Tiny Home), whose previous solo album, 2009’s dreams-inspired Red River, was a slow-burn delight, lost
her mother a couple of years ago to cancer, and it’s the gravity and finality
of the passing that inspired It Is So. Cotton is blessed with a rich, resonant warble reminiscent at times of both
Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell; or perhaps the best way to describe it would be to
cast it somewhere in between those two iconic voices, not quite as high-pitched
and innocent-sounding as early Joni, nor as deep-throated and preternaturally
world-weary as Joan. Yet the concurrent scars of loss and experience and the
wide-eyed optimism of youth are both
present in her remarkable pipes, as she essays a series of folk-tilting numbers
that hearken, deliciously, to an earlier, less complicated era.


The record opens with a stately, vocal-only (save a lone,
tolling tom-drum’s thump) number, “Man In A Tree With A Gun,” which
incorporates a traditional gospel song, “Remember and Do Pray For Me” – it’s a
devastating intro, particularly if the listener is armed with the above-mentioned
knowledge. Yet Cotton, wisely, then shifts gears, cognizant of the fact that
celebration can and should be part of the mourning process: “One By One” is
alight with peals of pedal steel and violin, buoyant with harmony vocals, its
country-Celt vibe suggestive of vintage Sandy Denny-led Fairport Convention.
Other tracks are similarly invigorating in their own low-key ways – “Song For
Eric,” which is about another passing, of a close friend, is delicate yet
intense, like My Morning Jacket when they dial back the decibels; “Honeycomb”
swirls with a subtly psychedelic assurance, as if it has been plucked from some
long-lost trove of David Crosby tapes. Throughout, Cotton peers outward, often
joined by an angelic chorus of voices, and as the album’s closing notes hang in
the air momentarily before fading away, the prevailing feeling is, indeed, of
having been gently brushed by the flutterings of an angel’s wings.


Cotton is offering the record as a pay-what-you-want
donation-only project (all the songs can be previewed at her site), with half
of the proceeds going to The American Bird Conservancy, where her mother
used to work. Consider making your donation count.


DOWNLOAD: “One By One,” “Honeycomb,”
“Frozen Hands” FRED MILLS

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