Created on Wednesday, 01 August 2012 Written by Derek WalkerMusical recluse returns with laid back and blurry Americana.
Label: Jar Note
Time 8 tracks / 27 minutes
While it is not in your head all the way through, it is very hard to hear this EP without thinking of Dylan. Some strummed guitar chords and that vocal phrasing, where Fox lunges at a word, only to slur back down again, is just from the old man himself.
And if that’s the reaction, would Fox care? Probably not. From what I read, he has virtually been a recluse for most of a decade – not from life, just from music. Although he was prominent in the late ‘80s as front man and guitarist with the Mice, who influenced the Ohio scene, and released two solo albums in the ‘90s, he now seems disinterested in music.
When writer Joe Hagan set out in 2007 to discover why Fox had stopped playing, he failed to enthuse Fox himself, but his article re-ignited the fans’ interest, which led to some i-Tunes royalties. Maybe that is why Fox began playing in Cleveland in 2010 and why this short collection has surfaced.
For this album, it feels like he just picked up a guitar, drawled a few songs and then went off for a drink. It is not just the playing style on this that is relaxed, but also the writing. It seems like he can knock out a few smart tunes without trying too hard. It's that natural.
In the opener “Whithering (sic) Soul,” one of those Dylanesque growls accompanied by mariachi echoes, he mixes the voice right down and covers it over with a blanket of surfy organ. The memorable “Babylonia” also finds his voice buried, this time under acoustic guitar. It is a short piece that could have been around for decades. Similarly timeless is “Existence,” whose summery guitar line has resonance with the ‘sixties.
Now that the hiatus is over, has he learned anything to pass on to his listeners? It’s hard to tell half of the time, with such mixed-down vocals. I heard flashes of poetic imagery, starting with the titles: “Moonlight Staggers on a Lonesome Toe” and “Rock that Shades the Valley, Heart that Shapes the Stone” to begin with. That romanticism continues inside the songs, (“When we wake to the strum of a hummingbird /realise this pain was so absurd”) alongside mentions of creativity (animals and cosmic items coming into existence), a few biblical symbols and chatty observations about humanity in “Round the World.”
But if you get this, you probably won’t strain your ears to catch each word. It’s more enjoyable to let the casual Americana roll over them. Free of bass and drums, but often home to things being tapped and banged – especially on “Wreck of Mind,” where the banging is even louder than the organ – this is summer evening on the porch music; songs to watch fireflies by.
I can hear his appeal: I enjoyed every track on this brief collection. Its trippy sparseness lets the personalities of the tunes shine through. But while there was virtually nothing to dislike, there was also little to get particularly excited about. Fox has done his job well, but it is hardly unique. Existing fans and lovers of lo-fi modern Americana will probably enjoy it most.
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