Cotton Wine is kind of a hard band to classify. Are they country western, southern roots, pop or rock? Their music is so much fun, so enjoyable to listen to that I finally decided they have created their own genre, indie pop Americana. Cotton Wine is a due, Brandon James and Femka, that has created a signature Americana sound that will go far. Brandon and Femke’s voices harmonize so well that you want to listen again and again and again. Their music can go from haunting to pop in a split second. Femke’s voice can blend with Brandon’s to give it a high dimensional shadow , come in solo breathless and deep, pulling you closer in. Two remarkable talents in one remarkable band. The final sound is reminiscent of Crosby, Still, Nash and Young or Simon and Garfunkle .
But there is no album to review. Instead, there is a unique distribution system they have created on YouTube, called the Song-A-Week program. To hear and download their music you go to http://www.youtube.com/user/cottonwinemusic or to http://cottonwinemusic.bandcamp.com where you can download their 4 new songs, “Corn in a Cotton Field”, “Murder Song”, “Hanging up My Heart” and “Going East” and their covers and remixes.
“Corn in a Cotton” Field is the title Song for their forthcoming album, due out in September. It features Femke’s angelic voice singing in bell-clear country. The feel is definitely C&W with western rhythm guitar and fiddle, but the lyrics, arrangement and form are solid pop . The result is unique and addictive.
“Going East” is a road song, describing the birth of Cotton Wine in car while Brandon, his pregnant wife, Femke and a friend drove from San Francisco to Nashville ,where they are now based. The song feels solid Nashville country with lyrics like: Passing the signs of the county lines Got Haggard on the radio and a couple thousand miles, going east is going home.
But the reality is more complex. Femke is from Holland and Brandon is Canadian, so they are more looking for a home to become American and Americana than going to a home from their past. The song and the story they of Motel 6’s and New Mexico fields works into your mind…you find yourself humming going east is going home without even realizing it, regardless of where you are from.
“Hanging up my heart” is a no-doubt downhome somebody-done-somebody wrong twangy country song led by Femke with a perfect, classic American country voice, one of several she can sing in. But as she gets into the song, the country twang is surrounded by echo tracks of harmony with herself ion a way you would never hear in a country song. Something is happening here – the harmony tracks fit so nicely that you immediately understand this is a new genre, a fusion of deep country, pop and two exceptional voices.
“Murder Song” is a perfected, crafted work of art. Femke sucks you in with a deep, breathy bedroom voice. She layers it with track on track, each repeat even more intimate. But she is singing about a murder, a fugitive who buried his sweetheart in Virginia. The rhythm is a slow dead man walking which then breaks into a strong, rising bridge with Femke’s violin that starts each new chapter in the story . The chorus has a clear message:
Just because you have it doesn’t mean you’re gonna keep it
Just because you want it doesn’t mean you’re gonna get it
Life’s hard, you’ll find that the Maker ain’t givin’ anyone a free ride
Just because you’re living doesn’t mean you’re gonna stay alive
The effect is unforgettable.
The album will have many more songs and in my conversation with them, they said they will be even richer and sharper than the songs now on YouTube and Bandcamp. I plan to buy both versions.[Rating:5/5]
Available at http://www.youtube.com/user/cottonwinemusic
Album due out in September
By Patrick O’Heffernan
Host, Music Friday