Category: Kevin Fox

Kevin Fox Covers: Paul Simon, Kate Bush, The Eurythmics, etc.
(w/ more cellofolk coverage from Ben Sollee, Fiddlers 4, Lindsay Mac et. al.)

September 18th, 2011 — 04:29 pm

As we noted in our recent profile of Crooked Still, the addition of the cello to the folk repertoire is relatively recent. Indeed, it would not be entirely wrong to credit founding member Rashaad Eggleston, who has since moved on to become a core member of stringfolk supergroup Fiddlers 4, with broadening these particular boundaries for a huge percentage of the folk audience.

But of course the much larger trend towards experimental expansion and genre-blur in the indie world comes into play here, too, making the rock violinist (or the rock cellist duo) a close cousin to the folk cellist in the post-20th-century marketplace of sound. And sure enough, we’ve posted singer-songwriter folk cellists before, like indie darling Ben Sollee and Falcon Ridge Folk Fest emerging artist Lindsay Mac, and found dozens more from all walks of folk on the radar, though arguably, the work of appalachian inheritor bands like Fiddlers 4, of orchestral folk and “chamberfolk” groups like Childsplay and The Folk Arts Quartet, of indiepop experimentalists such as The Portland Cello Project and their various rock-to-jazz-to-gypsyfolk members, and – more progenitally – folk-influenced pieces from the jazz-fusion Turtle Island String Quartet and others, better represent the larger systemic shift which has brought this unwieldy instrument, oft cited for having the timbre and tonal range most closest to the male human voice, into the canon.

Regardless of how it emerged, the willingness to accept cello music as folk is an interesting prerequisite for new discovery here at Covert Lay Down. And so we come together this weekend to explore the fruits of such discovery, in the person of one Kevin Fox, cellist and singer-songwriter extraordinaire.

Today’s post was almost a forgotten one-shot, based around a YouTube cover of Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes which got lost in the shuffle, resurfacing too late to make it into our recent set of Shod Coverfolk. But persistence paid off when I went looking for a studio version, on the off chance that Canadian cellist Kevin Fox had a larger body of work.

I’ve since learned much more about Kevin Fox. For starters, though in live-via-YouTube performance, his looped acoustic pop Paul Simon cover seemed pleasantly mild and measured when put against Ben Sollee’s more deliberately ragged, slipperier oveure, such comparison is unfair: Fox aims for something quite different, and achieves it marvelously. Instead, a closer listen – to this cover, and to Fox’s studio work as a set – reveals a preference for sparse, perfectly crafted, acoustic-driven contemporary soundscapes, and a particular talent for projecting darkness and light through the balance of the plucked and the bowed against his clear, breath-tinged singer-songwriter’s voice.

Fox’s stringwork is precise, his arrangements tight: there’s clearly a classical influence here, and mastery to match. But his larger body of work reveals a genuine eagerness to perform and write in multiple corners of the pop, rock, and folk spectrum. In addition to his solo work, the Halifax-born Fox is a frequent collaborator, arranger, and touring companion for a whole spectrum of talented countrymen and countrywomen, from Kathleen Edwards, Sarah Harmer, Danny Michel, Raine Maida, Stephen Page and Celine Dion, in and around his native provinces. To each, he brings the right note of atmosphere, just as he does to his original compositions, and their layered arrangements for voice, cello, and little else.

Finding Kevin Fox could not have happened without the turn of mind which looks for the folk in such instrumentation, it’s true. His tendency to stick to the provinces makes him harder to find; his chamelonesque history as a sideman and behind-the-scenes post-composition arranger makes him harder still to categorize. But once discovered, Fox outs himself as a soulful folk artist in every carefully constructed note of his solo pieces, even as his own larger body of work reveals him to be a major player in the grand contemporary genre-blurring tradition which continues to grow and spread north of the border. Listen; I think you’ll hear it, too:

  • Stephen Page w/ Kevin Fox: Halelujah (orig. Leonard Cohen)

    (live from Jack Layton’s State Funeral, August 27, 2011)

Want more? Kevin Fox has three albums in print through his website – a potent and easy entry to a highly recommended artist on the rise, especially for those who cannot make it to shows above the border – and each one comes highly recommended, though only the two most recent of these include coverage.

But since we started in a larger context, let’s end the lesson today with some bonus cellofolk from others mentioned herein, both for comparison’s sake and to pay tribute to the others whose careers support and legitimize today’s feature subject. I think you’ll find it a diverse set – but no less apt, given the myriad overlapping of sounds and sensibilities in the modern folkways, and our ongoing celebration of the vast and varied tent we call “folk”.

Previously on Cover Lay Down: Crooked Still covers The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Gillian Welch and more.

6 comments » | Ben Sollee, Fiddlers 4, Kevin Fox, Lindsay Mac