MICHAEL NAU and Whitney McGraw are currently, for all intents and purposes, without a home. They've just embarked on a long tour with their band, Cotton Jones. When the tour ends, they're not sure where they'll end up.
"Our lease was up," says Nau, "so we put a bunch of stuff in storage before the tour, rather than signing another lease. We're gonna tour through the end of the year and not really have another place to live for a while. We spent the last year in Georgia, in Athens, and got a lot done there and met people, and it was our first time living that far south... but right now we're not in Georgia. I don't know where we are really."
They ended up in Georgia after beginning in Cumberland, Maryland, as the Cotton Jones Basket Ride. The band was a spin-off of Nau and McGraw's other band Page France, but Cotton Jones has become their primary musical project. Currently touring as a six-piece, the band is on the eve of their second proper full-length, Tall Hours in the Glowstream, an incandescent, sumptuous record that's ripe with full-bodied echo, assuredly walking down the hallowed, ghosted halls of American pop. Parts of Glowstream are gospel, parts are Southern soul, parts of it backwoods folk—sounding assuringly familiar without ever resembling any single particular influence. Its drowsy torch songs, with shared, honeyed vocals from Nau and McGraw, will be a perfect counterpoint to some of the more frantic, speedy bluegrass at Pickathon.
"What I wanted to do with this one is try to be a little more hands off right from the start," says Nau of the new record. "Just let things happen and let things be out of our control in the way things developed. And I think that allowed a little bit of positivity and a little bit of hopefulness in the songs, because it wasn't a complete panic attack all the time about trying to make a song sound a specific way. We do still commit to it and work hard on it, but there's a little bit to be said for being patient when a song is developing rather than judging it too early. So I feel like we really were patient with this one, and things kind of came together."
Cotton Jones play the Starlight Stage on Friday at 11:30 pm and the Mountain View Stage on Saturday at 4:15 pm.