Cotton Mather

Cotton Is King

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The debut album by Austin's Cotton Mather (a demo recorded in 1992, Crafty Flower Arranger, was never officially released, although it has been widely bootlegged since the group's belated European success), 1994's Cotton Is King is very good, but it's nowhere near as musically strong or sonically varied as its follow-up, 1997's Kontiki. A fairly standard indie power pop album of the mid-'90s, only Robert Harrison's uniformly strong songwriting sets it apart from similar albums by the Rooks or the Greenberry Woods. Bryan Martin's rather colorless production doesn't put the fine songs in their best possible light, but songs like "Lost My Motto" and the downright Beatlesque "Payday" are melodic and lyrically intriguing enough to make it clear how gifted a writer Harrison is. His voice, which recalls a less choirboy-like Glenn Tilbrook (the comparison is particularly inescapable on the astonishingly Squeeze-like "Ivanhoe"), is pretty wonderful too. Cotton Mather's later records would be even better, but this is a surprisingly good debut.

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