If all the bluegrass fans in the world woke up in the morning to find their hopes for mainstream country radio had come true, this new album from the Cox Family is the kind of thing we’d be listening to over our coffee and eggs. The electric guitar, honky-tonk piano, steel, strings, and percussion simply enhance and shed a new angle of musical light on the pristine Cox Family vocal harmonies we’ve all come to know and love over the years. Of course, anything produced by Alison Krauss and engineered by Gary Paczosa is going to be tasteful and elegantly mind-blowing.
After 17 years in a Warner Brothers vault in Burbank, Cal., it’s a shining bluegrass miracle that this album was finally completed, with new vocals and Sidney Cox’s resonator guitar added to the original instrumental tracks. Patriarch Willard Cox’s vocals were finished in 1998, just two years before he and his late wife, Marie, were critically injured in a car accident. Mrs. Cox passed away in 2009, and the new album is dedicated to her memory.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of hearing these folks sing, Cox family harmonies are a balanced dichotomy of sound and emotion, both delicate and powerful, subdued and exuberant, ethereal and raucous. Their music sobs and shouts, sometimes shuffling down a street or dancing on the pinnacle of a mountaintop. The listener is intensely, breathlessly engaged. It’s impossible to take your ears off of this sound.
Willard Cox’s true country voice belts out “Cash On The Barrel Head” and “Honky Tonk Blues.” He includes a recitation that would impress Porter Wagoner on the Crystal Gayle favorite, “I’ll Get Over You.” Evelyn Cox squeezes every drop of lonesome out of David Gates’ “Lost Without Your Love,” while siblings Suzanne and Sidney pull off striking lead vocals on “I’m Not So Far Away” (Garth Fundis) and “In My Eyes” (Kostas). Krauss is the string section on violins, and she nails a twin-fiddle line with Andrea Zonn. The Suzanne and Sidney original “Too Far Gone” is memorable, as is the title-cut set in Louisiana and written by the duo in memory of their parents and grandparents. Evelyn’s “Let It Roll,” written by Kevin Brandt, may be the next perfect wedding song for bluegrass couples. File Gone Like The Cotton under “Good Country Music” and enjoy! (Rounder Records, One Rounder Way, Burlington, MA 01803, www.rounder.com.)NC