Albums

Crooked Wheels

Released January 2011

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Read the Yes Weekly review

It’s tempting to say that singer/songwriter Jon Fox’s latest release Crooked Wheels picks up practically where his 2007 debut Something Real left off, but in actuality, the follow-up is a major improvement. The dark and incisive opener “Back to Harlan” evokes the RC Cola and trucker-hat imagery of the Barbara Kopple documentary Harlan Country, USA in a thoughtful, gripping manner, but Crooked Wheels finds him mostly veering away from the heavy-handed social commentary that chafed his debut. Instead, the album focuses on the simple pleasures of singing and playing music, espoused through tightly constructed verse and rhyme.

Fox assembled an amazing repertory of musicians for this effort, bringing on CJ Chenier’s touring guitarist and Greensboro native Tim Betts to lend the album it’s fluid rock aesthetic. Betts’ melodic counterpoint is none other than Fox’s own father and UNCG professor Dave Fox, who spends much of the album buttressing the primary melody with shimmering organ. He surfaces on “Just Me” and “Better Off Today” with solos reminiscent of deceased Lynyrd Skynyrd pianist Billy Powell, but finds his significant role as the lone holdover from the previous record scaled back a bit. The rhythm section of drummer Chuck Cotton and bassist Tyler Barringer rarely stand out, but that’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from Cotton; quiet, consistent excellence. He’s so good you’re never forced to take notice of him, but when you do, you hear a man who not only dictates the tempo, he seems to understand it better than anyone else.

Lyrically, the songs are simple and accessible, and Fox feels centered in his reverence for life’s purities. Fox’s voice sounds rough around the edges at times, which was sometimes veiled in production, though it grows on you after a few listens. He starts the album out with a gruff veneer that might simply reflect the solemn nature of opener “Back to Harlen,” but that gradually tapers off and eventually takes on jangly pop characteristic that begins to assert itself later in the album on songs like “The Place for Me” and the smoker’s opus “Answers.”

Crooked Wheels doesn’t exude the plaintive individuality of Fox’s influences, guys like Steve Earle or Guy Clark, but he’s making big strides with every album.
By Ryan Snyder

 

Read the review from Lonestar Time

“Fortunately, the album Crooked Wheels by Jon Fox is now in the CD player, and that’s a relief. His album radiates a wonderful piece of Americana. Jon Fox is aided on the album by the excellent playing of Tim Betts on guitar. Tim Betts is also guitarist for Zydeco legend C.J. Chenier and The Red Hot Louisiana Band. The true Betts is clearly heard in the opening of the song ‘The Place For Me’.

Jon Fox makes music in the line of Tom Petty and likes to be heard. It’s an album where from beginning to end the listener is left with a pleasant feeling. The music swings, whether you take the guitar from the aforementioned Tim Betts, or the fresh sound of the keyboards by his father Dave Fox. The band is further formed by Chuck Cotten on drums and Tyler Barringer on bass.

Tracks like ‘Back To Harlan,’ ‘Answers,’ and especially ‘Westbound Train’ can be heard often enough and make this album a proven winner.

Read the review from Good Noise Radio

“There was much intrigue in 2007 with his debut album, Something Real, which followed in the footsteps of people like Chris Knight, Steve Earle and all those American singers of the province most genuine and true. After three years Jon Fox returns with that unmistakable sound of American alt-country soundtrack which is more suitable to talk about these troubled times. Crooked Wheels resumes the conversation where we left off, with the same desire, the same intellectual integrity and stimulation. Ten songs that leave their mark, ten songs that prove the goodness of Jon Fox both musically and also on a lyrical level.

Tim Betts, for a long time at the court of one of the great legends of Zydeco, CJ Chenier and The Red Hot Louisiana Band, plays lead guitar on the album. Dave Fox—the father of Jon Fox and an expert jazz musician—appears on the keyboards. The rhythm section is made up of Tyler Barringer on bass and Chuck Cotten on the drums and are the corollary to the protagonist, giving fascinating and worthy of deep imprint of the musicians mentioned above.

‘Back To Harlan’ (which was also released a video that you can find on YouTube), ‘Mountain Top,’ ‘Just Me,’ ‘Westbound Train,’ and ‘When I Die’ are just a few of the most interesting ideas of an album that’s easy to appreciate in its entirety.

Something Real

Released June 2007