I never thought I'd hear Bryan Fox sing country songs. But there it is.
Fox, a local dentist, is - OK, was - a hard-rocker, gaining local attention with the Bryan Fox Band, then national attention with End of Me. End of Me, which took a single to the top of Louisville's commercial rock charts with "Yes," ultimately signed with 10-Inch Records and recorded a four-song demo that was to eventually become a national album. But a shakeup at the label and in the music industry in general helped get End of Me un-signed and that was that. The band called it a career.
But Fox reinvented himself and, listening to this independently released, six-song EP, it sounds like he should have been making country music all along. The guy can write a song.
Be That Kind of Man kicks right off with the title track, a heartfelt promise to a woman that he can, well, "be that kind of man" she is looking for. Sure, it's been done, but damned if he doesn't pull this off anyway. Produced by Malcolm Springer - who has worked with Matchbox 20 and Collective Soul - it's ready for country radio right now.
"Redneck Song" is a boot-scooting romp reminiscent of Garth Brooks in his heyday - in fact, the tongue-in-cheek tune mentions Mr. Brooks by name. It also makes reference to "Achy Breaky Heart," cow tipping, shit-kickers and frog gigging - you get the idea. It's the kind of song every guy who ever bought a truck would have a blast with.
"Cry Like Memphis" is an interesting reference to Elvis. A rebuffed and heartbroken man admits he is going to "cry like Memphis / when they heard the King was gone" having lost his one true love. This one borders on going too far into commercialism, but the gentle fiddle playing and Fox's delivery make it work - and it's also the point. This is clearly a showcase for Fox's songwriting skills; there is a hell of a lot of money to be made in radio country if you reach the right ears and it's clear Fox might have the goods. And he wouldn't be the first rocker to cross over in an attempt to be a professional musician.
"Hello to Hollywood" doesn't work quite as well but hangs in there as a low-point and the disc-closer, "Higher Things," pulls spirituality into the mix and works surprisingly well - the upside being that it tells a touching story without being preachy. A different, pared-down take on the title track wraps up the disc as a bonus track.
The easy knock here will be to shout "sellout" - but there's a purpose here and if this serves that purpose then what's the difference? Bottom line, Fox is a good songwriter and a good singer. His deep, slightly scratchy voice (think Mellencamp lite) works perfectly with the material and he's got a hell of a producer on his side.
My take is more power to him. Once again, we are reminded how much diverse talent walks among us every day in Louisville.
Find your inner redneck at www.bryanfoxrocks.com.