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*** 1/2, THE COX FAMILY, "Just When We're Thinking It's Over," Asylum

August 04, 1996|Randy Lewis

If Alison Krauss' transformation from cult bluegrass star to platinum-selling country artist has a ripple effect, this winsome clan from Louisiana should be first in line to benefit.

Krauss produced and arranged their three albums for Rounder, and continues with this major-label debut. Not surprisingly, it has the same fundamental appeal of Krauss' recordings: an endearingly pure emotional approach rooted in bluegrass, country and folk tradition.

Brother Sidney and sister Suzanne Cox's "Nothing Else I Can Do," like the group's best originals, contains not a trace of artifice in its expression of a lover's plea to save a relationship: "You didn't think that I could just go on my way / When you take away the smile that I live for." The quartet's exquisite bluegrass harmonies just add to the bittersweet feeling. It dovetails naturally into Hank Williams' "I Just Don't Like This Kind of Living," sung with unforced authenticity by patriarch Willard Cox.

This album also broadens the group's textural scope with greater use of drums and electric instruments and heightened rhythmic punch, and expands its musical reach with versions of hits by Del Shannon ("Runaway") and Marvin Gaye ("That's the Way Love Is"). Remarkably, it is accomplished with only the most fleeting hints of market-driven slickness.

If this typifies the Krauss effect, let the ripples continue.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

* TimesLine 808-8463

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