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Angel Motel
Artist: Justin Fox
Label: True Tunes
Length: 59 mins

Take Me Over

Iíve got a friend who often goes into Christian record stores and illicitly puts parental guidance stickers on Amy Grant albums. Such is his regard for Christian music. Often he has ribbed me for my leanings towards whiny teen-angst music, an accusation which is not wholly accurate, yet I still find myself trying to steer myself away from such records, lest I should induce more teasing from my colleague. Thankfully, Justin Foxís evocatively entitled album Angel Motel has none of these qualities, and though my good friend would probably balk at the idea of listening to such a record, it is actually rather good; one of those CDs that may not be immediate, but reveals its depth and hooks over repeated listenings. 

Angel Motel opens with "Take Me Over," upon which Fox sounds like a young Bruce Springsteen as he drawls the lines:

Well, I ainít perfect
I ainít even close
Yeah, the things I think I want
Ainít the things I need the most
Wonít you take me over
This is a song that sets the predominant theme and mood for the whole record-­a longing to be fully consumed by his faith or by his lover. It is a question that pops up frequently through the twelve songs here-­and obligatory hidden track-­one that adds considerable weight to this record. Therefore, it is only fitting that Angel Motelís closing song you cover me is a summation of this idea, that as Christians we are weak and prone to screwing things up a lot, but with Godís help we can forge something brilliant from our lives:
Cover me with your peace
Cover me with your strength
And when I am lost 
Youíre the light that helps me see
Though Fox has a keen ear for a good tune and a knack for soft, alt-country harmonies, he is not overly conscious of his own talents, which is a good thing; the sense of self-effacement complements the albumís motif of being transformed by the love of Christ. While Angel Motel does have its rawk moments, the songs collected here work best in their quieter moments, when the album is stripped of bombast and guitar pedal effects, leaving only an acoustic guitar, piano and Foxís voice, which is strong without being overpowering or forced. Between the Ďwannaís and the Ďgonnaís, there are some stirring lyrics; it is the slower, more melancholy songs that leave more of an impression on the listener, especially the building love-song faithful, with a tune and style that echoes the more touching bits of the Counting Crows:
As the years go by
Like a bullet train
A silver blur
In the driving rain
I want to be faithful
Foxís voice may be a little rough around the edges, but then so do all the singers who have the most charm; sadly, the charts are choked full of Whitneys and Britneys who have been trained so hard that whatever character they had in the first place has been erased. It is cool to hear a Christian singer who is doing something a little different and who is not afraid to let the cracks show; however my friend may mock and moan, the Angel Motel is a very nice place to stay. 

Ross Thompson 06/13/2000



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