“Gone Like the Cotton” by the Cox Family

The Cox Family
Gone Like the Cotton
Rounder Records
4½ stars (out of 5)

By Aaron Keith Harris

We can thank Alison Krauss not only for promoting the Cox Family to wider audiences with their 1994 collaborative album I Know Who Holds Tomorrow, but for this album in particular. Begun in the late 1990s with Krauss as producer, Gone Like the Cotton was delayed by record company drama, work on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, a near-fatal car crash that left father Willard unable to perform, and the death in 2009 of mother Marie. Krauss revived the project and got siblings Evelyn, Sidney, and Suzanne back in the studio for 15 days in 2015 to finish these dozen tracks for release on Rounder Records late that year.

Recorded before his injuries, Willard’s easy-rolling vocals for “Cash on the Barelhead” (Louvin Brothers), “Honky Tonk Blues” (Lonesome Pine Fiddlers), testify to the band’s ability to handle just about any style of country and rockabilly with style and substance, as do two Crystal Gayle covers, Willard’s take on “I’ll Get Over You” and “I’m Not So Far Away,” with Suzanne singing lead.

Brother Sidney’s “In My Eyes” (written by Kostas) is a shimmering slice of Beatle-esque (or maybe Wilbury-esque) pop, with Sonny Landreth’s slide guitar playing George Harrison’s part.

But it’s the lead vocal work from Suzanne and Evelyn will keep me coming back to this record.

Suzanne smolders on “Good Imitation of the Blues” and “Good News,” proving there’s nothing sexier than a woman who knows what to do with a good song and a great band.

Evelyn opts for softer songs—Bread’s “Lost Without Your Love,” Kim Richey’s “Desire,” and “Let it Roll,” one of the best love songs I’ve heard in a long time—and sings them just as good as Krauss ever could, adding a touch of visceral emotion where Krauss might be expected to stay up among the clouds.

“Gone Like the Cotton,” a Sidney/Suzanne co-write firmly in the country tradition of songs that dramatize the tension between fatalism and faith, closes the album with the three siblings in harmony over a lone guitar, sounding as good as any similar family band ever has. This song, and this gorgeous album, would make an apt final chapter to the Cox Family’s recording career, but let’s all pray that it doesn’t.

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