Recording information: Soundloom, Burlington, VT.
While Mowing marks the debut solo album of Cotton Jones leader Michael Nau, fans of the band needn't brace themselves for a reinvention. In fact, the record's contents were selected from archived musical sketches and songs written over the course of several years with his group, but never fully realized. The completed tracks share the warm nostalgia of many Cotton Jones tunes, with Nau's affection for psychedelic and AM pop intact. Falling in the mellower zone of his band's repertoire across the board, the opener, "While You Stand," functions as a classic singer/songwriter offering with melodic acoustic guitar and lyrics full of nature imagery that describe a wanderer. It establishes a floaty serenity that endures on the impressionistic bossa nova of "Smooth Aisles" and "Maralou," both with shimmering effects as if we're cutting to a memory. Dreamlike environs continue on the gentle Hawaiian lap steel sound of "Mowing" (an instrumental interlude), and later on the serenading "Good Moon." The latter features spacy keyboard and guitar tones sporadically scattered behind the vocals and lead acoustic guitar, evoking random drops of rain or reflections of light. Even the more immediate "So, Song Long," which sounds like it could be an outtake from Rubber Soul, remains in keeping with the album's reflective, affectionate tone. With its environmental sound and complementary lyrics, Mowing seems to encourage daydreaming, even verbally acknowledging a return to reality when airport noise invades the closing track. Regrettably, hammock not included. ~ Marcy Donelson