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Music Review - `American Dirt` by Jon Fox (jh)

Jon FoxAmerican Dirt (click on image to watch video)

20 February 2020 


The opening Dicky Betts-like guitar licks to Jon Fox’s American Dirt announce that he’s one of the southern rock disciples but he evolves into more diverse sounds as the album evolves.  Yet, listen again for his lyrics, by turns smart, humorous, and uplifting.  He begins with a tune that doesn’t stray dramatically from the Beatles tune of the same name – “Love Is All You Need.” He moves from that positive message into the slide-guitar driven “Baby Don’t You Leave Me,” where the character is having just a plain rotten day where the impending breakup might be the last straw. Yet, his lyrics are stocked with humorous passages, leaving one to think it’s all tongue-in-cheek.

He shows he’s got the country crooner aspect down in “Tears We Cried’ and shows a real love for his native South in  the plodding beat of  “It Ain’t Rain,” bringing a familiar country-rock sonic backing to a tune with some good lines, none better than “Will Uncle Sam be there when my crops fail?” The keyboards come courtesy of his dad, Dave Fox while the pedal steel, mandolin, banjo, and various guitars are from Ronald Radford. His other conspirators are drummer Tim Blackwell, bassist Tim Lawter, and guitarist Rusty Milner. They bring the requisite banjo and good time fell to the jubilant “Mountain Life.”

Country albums like this almost always require an outlaw song of some type and surely Fox has his own, simply entitled “Outlaw” that’s a moody piece speaking about the code of ethics no less, among outlaws as the pedal steel swirls. While it’s not the kind of rowdy singalong fare usually associated with these kinds of songs, Milner does take a fiery guitar solo. More direct messaging carries the piano-driven “What It’s Not” – “It’s not what you say but what you do.” He takes another cliché statement “Forest Through the Trees” into an expose on hard earned wisdom from his roots-oriented blue collar viewpoint.

All the previous tunes seem to lead toward the crux of the album in “My Country” and “Every Town”. Given Fox’s uplifting stance as revealed in the opening tune, the title “American Dirt” is not a derogatory statement but just the opposite – he’s singing with pride about his reverence for real people, real soil, and daily routines and issues as if to say “this is the America I know” (versus that portrayed in media). “My Country, ” though anthemic, comes across genuinely as opposed to the hyped-up patriotism of Lee Greenwood and others. “Every Town” is just another way of expressing the similar sentiment. 

While the album glides along with a rocking, made-for-car-stereo sound, and musicians seem highly engaged, Fox may have been better served to strip away the sound on at least a couple of tunes. It sounds as if he wants every possible nook and cranny filled with a keyboard or stringed instrument (often two or three). This writer finds that it detracts somewhat from his lyrics. Overall, though, that’s a small quibble. Fox’s heart and mind is in the right place and a listen will certainly brighten whatever ride you want to take.


Jim Hynes



Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and Country Standard Time. He has also written for Variety. He was a listener-supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live music host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.

To Read All of Jim's Reviews, Click Here




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