I’m no stranger to western Maryland. This gorgeous, weird land has much more in common with John Denver’s vision of West Virginia than The Wire’s Baltimore or spring break in Ocean City. Driving through the formidable valleys and sunny plains always feels like traveling back a bit in time and space; it makes total sense that Cotton Jones and their earthy sound hail from these rolling hills.
The sound of the folk quartet hearkens back to the psychedelic folk days of the mid 1960’s; their production style reinforces the dusty-vinyl aesthetic. “Gone the Bells”, the fourth track from their 2009 release Paranoid Cocoon, evokes nostalgia that Instragram only wishes it could emulate. The harmonies between frontman Michael Nau and his wife Whitney McGraw are dreamily nestled between the floating acoustic and electric guitar lines. A swirling organ sweetly fills out the instrumental passages.
I’ve known about Cotton Jones for a while, but didn’t get truly sucked in until I saw them open for Dr. Dog at the 9:30 Club this past winter. I was totally engrossed by the soaring melodies and focused performance. After their set, Dr. Dog thanked them for opening, and mentioned that ‘those guys are the real deal’. I couldn’t agree more.
While some may question their dedication to old-school stylistic choices, I can’t get enough of it. So excuse me while I don some bell-bottoms and light the incense. And by bell-bottoms, I mean sweatpants. And by incense, I mean Glade Air-Fresh Gingerbread candle. Hey. It’s not like I’m in the band. But I will certainly play “Gone the Bells” about 8 more times tonight. Mmm… gingerbread.
Photo Credit: Culture Bully