Cotton Jones cheers up on sophomore album

Now on its second long-player, Maryland-based Cotton Jones has perfected a difficult task: meshing accessible folk and country in a way that’s nonchalantly cool. Combining folk and country—a sound often filed under Americana—is easy. Doing it well, however, is complicated.

But Tall Hours in the Glowstream is a breeze. If Michael Nau and Whitney McGraw experienced difficulty or forced any sentiments, listeners won’t notice.

The pair’s vocals still echo like an homage to Mazzy Star, and the retro-sounding but entirely of-the-moment lo-fi quality is firmly in place. The sweet exchanges between the two, reminiscent of televised old school country performances (like Loretta Lynn’s frequent duets with Conway Twitty), are less prevalent, but remain an obvious highlight. The album opener, “Sail of the Silver Morning,” and the upbeat, drum roll-peppered “Glorylight and Christie” both feature that lovely back-and-forth. And though sometimes McGraw’s voice is used simply to accent Nau’s, the results are just as delightful.

On last year’s Paranoid Cocoon, the tune of most songs, although beautiful, are hard to follow naturally. The organ-backed “Gotta Cheer Up,” for one, is a tinge creepy in its repetitiveness. In this sophomore effort though, the duplicated lyrics are happier in content and backed by similarly lovely, but certainly more hopeful, melodies. It appears Nau and McGraw have taken their own advice—they’ve cheered up.