CD: Long Way To Go
ARTIST: The Fox Hunt
We've said it before: by the time we get our hands on anything awesome here it's been out for a while. Such is the case with Long Way To Go, the new CD from the rockin' Martinsburg-based bluegrass and country four-piece called The Fox Hunt.
Released waaaay back at the end of February, their third full-length (and fifth overall) since they formed in 2006 is packed with 12 foot-tappin' road weary, lovelorn, drunken, (and yeah, sometimes sober) ditties.
The amazing thing isn't really that the fiddle-centric string sound (no drums) and traditional acoustic, mandolin, banjo, and upright bass arrangements all come together with such rockin' results; it's that half of the songs are written by John R. Miller, and the other half by Matt Kline. So, The Fox Hunt, at least speaking in diplomatic terms, is some sort of egalitarian democracy or something. Well, fiddle guy Ben Townsend wrote one song.
As Long Way To Go progresses, the duo of Miller and Kline share the load effortlessly and with equally awesome results.
Miller composed and promptly gets dumped on the opening song, “Screw Me Up,” (“Screw me up and leave me with a tattoo of your name/Tell all of your friends that I’m no good anyway”) and is guilty of hit and run on the devilish sounding “It Suits Me,”
It suits me, if it suits you/You can have me for a night or twoThe countrified “The Only Sounds I Hear” and “No Penance” are Miller's moments of painful musical catharsis. On “The Only Sounds I Hear” Miller sings:
But you ought to not be fallin for me girl, I’ll only let you down
Wake up in the morning, you’ll see I wont be hangin’ ‘round
After all the songs are done/and the shit’s back in the vanMiller sings on the chorus:
It don’t matter who I’m with/it don’t matter where I am
Your memory’s beside me, every corner, every bar stool
and every cloud of smoke I exhale in the face of every fool
It’s lonelier than hell down here in Knoxville“Won’t Slow Down” is a road rockin' number about small town princesses, and on “I’ll Drink Cheap,” Miller goes without the expensive stuff so his date can drink Guinness Draught, Maker’s Mark and Jagerbombs. Now see, ladies, there’s a thoughtful guy, huh?
After all the barrooms have shut down
The only sounds I hear tonight are the buzzin’ from these old street lights/and a gang of dogs barkin’ on the other side of town
Kline’s contributions include the first single, “Trouble Making Woman,” the somber “Sinners Like Me,” the bluesy “Get Back Home,” “Lower Than I Should Be,” and the final track, the old time gospel flavored “When The Roll’s Called,” which sounds like it’s straight out of some old church, but fits right in with what bluegrass is all about and what The Fox Hunt is going for.
Ben Townsend penned and sung on “Four Horses,” a song about divorce, the death of a family and a special inheritance. A lot of the songs have killer banjo and or mandolin solos provided by Townsend and Matt Metz.
One of Kline’s strongest efforts is the very sober “Lower Than I Should Be,” a moment of fond reminiscing about lost love, a stripped down and hushed, almost painful sounding honesty out of Kline:
She used to write me letters on a foggy bathroom mirrorAnd on the chorus:
And say do your best and don’t forget that I’ll always be here
It used to be I’d think of her and smile
But I haven’t smiled like that in quite a while
‘Cause at night time when it gets colder, the cigarettes burn slower/And I start feelin’ lower than I should beRegardless of who’s writing and/or singing the songs, most all of the songs have great backing vocals, with pretty much everyone laying down harmonies, making them easy to sing along with.
Now that I’m sober, I just wish that I could show her
I don’t want things to be over between her and me
The Fox Hunt recorded the CD in true bluegrass DIY fashion at The Doodio in Martinsburg, mixed and co-engineered by Townsend and then shipped off to Carl Saff in Chicago, who has worked with The Demon Beat in the past. Superb production.
And not only is the CD great, The Fox Hunt have recently been put on kinda big time; they recently (March?) played a set on Mountain Stage. Nice. We've heard a lot of nice bluegrass output from area artists, but for us, as a whole, the vibe on Long Way To Go kind of reminds us of listening to that Keller and the Keels CD, Grass, that we picked up a few years ago. Just the whole kind of fresh approach to a traditional sound, maybe.
It's great to hear traditional bluegrass in an appealing, fresh package. While we don't sit around telling people we're "Way more bluegrass" than they are, we've long been fans of it, and in their songs, you can hear all the elements (religious, Scots-Irish) that influenced country/western in The Fox Hunt's authentically rowdy output.
You know that saying, what once was old is new again? Well, The Fox Hunt have put their own contemporary twist on the old thing that is bluegrass, and with this release and their relentless touring, will continue to make fans.
It just sucks that it took us this long to get the CD, but now that we have it we're glad we do.
--- The Fox Hunt plays at the annual Vandalia Gathering in Charleston May 28 & 29
Related: Michael Theis' post on The Fox Hunt's CD release show
Related: Charleston Gazette article on The Fox Hunt
mp3: "The Only Sounds I Hear" by The Fox Hunt