An hour before the music started Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 21), Alison Krauss stood at the door of The Well coffee house in Nashville and greeted guests streaming in to hear the Grammy-winning Cox Family perform live.
It was the first of three Nashville performances designed to publicize the long-delayed release of the Coxes’ album, Gone Like the Cotton, which Krauss began producing in 1997 but completed only this year.
Originally headed by their father, Willard Cox, the current incarnation of the Cox Family includes sisters Evelyn and Suzanne, brother Sidney and Sidney’s daughter, Anna. Willard was paralyzed in a traffic accident in 2000 and is no longer able to perform.
John Esposito, chief of Warner Music Nashville, introduced the group to the packed house and explained the convoluted history of the project. “It wasn’t even a labor of love,” he said of the album. “It was love.”
Warner has released the album in conjunction with Asylum Records, the label for which it was initially recorded, and Rounder Records, the company that successfully marketed the Cox Family’s earlier albums.
Kyle Lehning signed the Cox Family to Asylum Records in the mid-1990s and presided over the release of its first album for the label in 1996 — the Krauss-produced Just When We’re Thinking It’s Over. When Lehning left Asylum in 1998, the Cox Family lost its in-house advocate, and its embryonic second album went into locust-like limbo.
But Lehning was so impressed with what he had heard that he kept urging each new CEO who came in to head Warner’s country division to finish the album. (Warner absorbed Asylum in 2000.) Finally, he found a champion in Esposito.
Krauss returned to the studio in April of this year to record the vocal tracks and add the title song Sidney and Suzanne wrote to honor their parents. Three songs for which Willard had recorded lead vocals are also on the album.
Standing elbow-to-elbow on the postage stamp stage, the Coxes were in a joyful mood. They joked about the still overpowering presence of their dad, gave delightfully rambling introductions to their songs and interrupted and ribbed each others as siblings will.
The crowd loved it.
Except for performing the title song of the new collection, the group sang only selections from their previous albums, specifically “Streets of Gold,” “Why Not Confess,” “My Favorite Memory,” “Far Side Banks of Jordan,” “Blue Bayou” and “Standing by the Bedside of a Neighbor.”
Krauss, a fan of the Cox Family since she was a teenager, has produced all but the first of their albums.
Always an eclectic act, Gone Like the Cotton includes such cover tunes as “Lost Without Your Love” (Bread) “Cash on the Barrel Head” (the Louvin Brothers) “Honky Tonk Blues” (the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers) and “I’ll Get Over You” (Crystal Gayle).
In the liner notes, Krauss says her work on Gone Like the Cotton is “as important as anything I’ve ever done.”