Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recordings engineered by Patrick Stolley and Mike Gentry
The things that Michael Nau and Whitney McGraw are going to be instilling in their new baby boy are going to be superior to the things that others of us are capable of instilling in our children. Oh, sure, that's a huge and bloated statement, anchored largely, but not solely on the music that these two - along with various accomplices in Cotton Jones - create, but it doesn't feel that unreasonable to suggest. The things that Nau sings about, originally when he did son in Page France, and now especially with Cotton Jones, are sentiments that seem to be made of rarefied air. They sound to me as if they're golden, the soft murmurs of a candlelight moon, or one that drips milk, as he might phrase it. They seem as if they've been taken from a mind and a poetic imagination that's twice or three times as fertile as the next great man's. We're not talking comparing any old head to other, but if we were to place Nau and another certifiably expert songwriter and lyricist next to each other, the scruffy man from Maryland, with the unwashed clothes, dirt hair and fingernails, this new father and devoted husband, would win more times than not. He's an unsung master and none of these words feel as if they're hyperbole. They are true and honest and, given any substantial listen to the latest Cotton Jones offerings - the full-length, "Tall Hours In The Glowstram," or the EP, "Sit Beside Your Vegetables" - most would agree with them. He's as versatile as they come and he packs more soul and heart into these stories of longing, love and homesickness than anyone you're likely to encounter. Nau makes you feel as if you're entering a very personal world of the kinds of gentle headaches that come to a man who seems to be the most content, suffering man you're ever going to meet. It's as if he takes in all of the hurts out there - mostly those of others, those that abound - and he transfers them into something that comes out on the other side as uplifting and spiritual. These are not quick thoughts, but those that come to someone after years and years of studiousness and inquisitiveness. They come while being cooped up in vans - tired and losing it - and somehow the feeling becomes lonesomeness even when you're not lonesome at all. These thoughts come to a person while taking a long walk, with no destination in particular. They come, seemingly from the thin bodies of those cigarettes that keep burning down to your lips, down to the filter. Nau makes so much of the smallest matters and it's what he'll hope his son takes from him. He'll get daddy's worn and ragged jean jackets and the ability to see these sorts of moments, from "Man Climbs Out Of The Winter," "I love to watch you walk around the room/You like to watch me sit around at best/Oh, but the sun's burning up our window/Begging us to come outside/Well, maybe tonight, I don't know, but maybe tonight/When we get out on the floor/Maybe tonight, maybe tonight." He'll be able to say that his old man taught him that and he'll always know that there's more to everything out there than meets the eye. Also, courtesy of his old man.
Cotton Jones Debut Session
Cotton Jones Second Session
Page France Daytrotter Session