An Angel Band, – The Cox Family

I really don´t understand it, how much I try – how come “The Cox Family” isn´t a household name for all in love with Americana music? I just don´t understand it. Still – I know lots of people know and love Alison Krauss, as they should, and she is the best friend and the greatest admirer of “The Cox Family”, she has produced all their records, save for an early recording, “Quiet Storm”, that´s impossible to find even information about – and I´ve tried. So – if you don´t trust me, trust Alison Krauss. She is an angel, too.

“The Cox Family” is really a family band, and the family magic can always be heard in the close harmony of their blending vocals. The family origins from Cotton Valley in Louisiana, Willard Cox is the father of Sidney, Susanne and Evelyn, and they started playing for people back in the seventies, a popular draw at local fairs and festivals, but it was first in the early nineties, when they met Alison Krauss, sparks began to fly and helped them get their first recording for Rounder Records, produced by Alison, their biggest fan.

The album released in 1993 was “Everybody´s Reaching Out For Someone”, and it oozes of high quality from the first note of “Standing By The Bedside of a Neighbour” and all through the album. Beautiful voices, excellent song choices and exquisite playing.

And of course the beautiful “Cry Baby Cry”. It´s simple and it´s bitter sweet, but like most of their songs it finds it way to your heart in mysterious ways, like the best music alway do.

The next project is the beautiful country/bluegrass gospel album, where Alison Krauss and The Cox Family both are credited – “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow”.

The beautiful “Far Side Banks of Jordan” are maybe best known by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash´s version, still this might be the sweetest of them all.

They even makes a great version of the Paul Simon chestnut “Loves Me Like A Rock”.

Gospel songs and spiritual hymns was alway an important part of the “The Cox Family” repertoir, and their talent was early widely acclaimed. Even Dolly Parton invited them to her TV show.

In 1995 a new Rounder Album arrived, “Beyond The City”. Another beautiful collection of songs, both old and new, gospel and secular. Their version of the old Carter Family song “I´ll Be All Smiles Tonight” is a personal favorite.

“Broken Engagement” is recorded by many great artists, among them Louvin Brothers to Webb Pierce, but “The Cox Family” version is right up there with the best.

As a kind of bonus track, there is an extra version of “Broken Engagement”, dated 1974 – it might be from the “Quiet Storm” album that´s impossible to find, but that´s just my guess. Nevertheless, they were great already.

The album are starting out surprisingly with a great version of “Lovin´You” by Lovin´Spoonful.

The next album is “Just When We´re Thinking It´s Over”. It´s a step up in many ways, the first album on a big record company, Elektra/Asylum. Still they´re singing like the angels, but mixing genres, a touch of blues, country, bluegrass and gospel.

They even covers Del Shannons ´Runaway´.

Their fabulous version of the soul hit of Isley Brothers and Marvin Gaye, “That´s The Way Love Is” really shows the bands great potential across the genres.

The family also produced their own songs, some also recorded of other artists, including Alison Krauss. One of Sidney´s songs concludes the album, the beautiful “Backroads”.

In 1997 “The Cox Family” appears on the soundtrack for the movie “Traveller” with several songs, among them another “Carter Family” original, “I´m Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes”.

When it comes to soundtracks, few of them was more important than the soundtrack following the great Coen Brothers movie, “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou”. Not only was it attached to a fabulous and popular movie, produced by T-Bone Burnett it was a near perfect collection of bluegrass and oldtime music, bringing a whole musical culture into the public eye.

After the film´s and the album´s great success, it was made a fabulous documentary concert movie with many of the artists – one of the highlights was The Cox Family, and Susanne charming us all with her version of “I Am Weary, Let Me Rest”.

Starting in 1998 with their next album, The Cox Family lost their contract with Asylum before the album was finished, and more trouble was to come. Willard Cox, the father and the band leader had a tragic accident in 2000, paralyzed from the waist down. This was a big setback for the band, and the tapes for the new album was just archived. Then, 17 years later, Rounder was willing to give the group another chance, Alison produced and in 2015 came “Gone Like The Cotton”, another great album in the history of “The Cox Family”, even including some vocals from father Willard from the 1998 tapes.

Even if there was no new album between 1996 and 2015, the group continued playing and performing, sometimes with Alison, like here in 2009.

“Gone Like The Cotton” is starting off with a “Good Imitation of the Blues”, showing us that “The Cox Family” got what it takes to make great records.

The recipe is known, old and new in a fine mix. “Cash On The Barrelhead” is a perfect example of how the group makes old songs new, and the Krauss´production gives it all a perfect rocky edge, makes you wanna dance.

Once again the album includes beautiful new songs by the family itself, like ´Too Far Gone´.

When “Gone Like The Cotton” was released, there was also this nice little story about the family´s roots in Louisiana.

As we all hope that Cox Family will continue to make sweet music and make even more albums, we also have to thank Alison Krauss deeply for all her work with and use of the family´s potential, helping bringing their fabulous music to the world. It´s really touching to see the mutual admiration and friendship that´s the base of their co-operation, and the great music they made and still makes together.

Thanks to streaming possibilities most of the Cox Family albums is possible to listen to on Spotify, TIDAL and Apple Music. A blessing in itself. Whether we believe in angels or not – I´m sure this is how they would be sounding.

Johnny Borgan

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