NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Music We Missed: Cotton Jones

The small city of Cumberland, Md., sits along Interstate 68 in rural Appalachia, and it's where members of the band Cotton Jones grew up. Husband and wife Michael Nau and Whitney McGraw are based in Georgia these days, but you can almost see their remote hometown when you hear their album Tall Hours in the Glowstream.

"You're driving through mountains forever, and then you kind of break into this little bowl of a town," McGraw says about Cumberland. "The river's cutting through, and the mountains and all those churches just kind of built in on the hillsides. The speed limit drops to 40, so coming through on the highway, it kind of like forces you to slow down and see what you're going through."

Within this beautiful landscape is a small bend of water off the Potomac River -- they call it the Glowstream -- where McGraw and Whitney used to go as teenagers.

"There's never a whole lot to do where we're from," McGraw says, "Just kind of spend our evenings sitting on a bank."

Nau adds, "It's a specific place, sort of, but it's also much more than that. It's kind of a place where, when I go home, I just kind of go and absorb everything, like marinate in what home means to me. The idea of the Glowstream, even whenever I'm there it feels nostalgic ... the whole idea of home and for a while feeling like we didn't really have a home.  You know, we were either on the road or living in between places. I felt detached from memories for the first time ... feeling uprooted from that place."

Feeling uprooted is what musicians bargain for, but the band reconnects with home in songs like "Place at the End of the Street."

"The line in there, 'Take back this song and sing it for my family, always remember who you're singing it to,' it's sort of a love song," says Nau. "Like telling my family that I love them. How could I do that other than in a song?"

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.