Dave Birk, singer songwriter, Minneapolis
This vulnerable and courageous album is filled with honest, heartfelt lyrics as Fox effortlessly conveys universal needs and longing. The entire collection of songs resonated with me on many levels, and I appreciated that the band created a lush musical bed that entwined, rather than overpowered, their message.
Billy Kaplan, singer songwriter, Chicago
Listening to Fox Vernon’s EP Ghost was like putting the needle down on one of my favorite albums: it fit so perfectly in the groove, brought me comfort like the hug from an old friend, and left me with ear-worms throughout the rest of my day. The wonderful melodies and delightfully unexpected arrangements of this EP are supported by a beautiful production process. This is a great spiritual journey in music that deserves repeated listening. Honestly, I listened to the EP five times in the first 24 hours I had it!
Keith Emory DeLancey, guitarist and bassist, Sylva, NC
"O Lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again."
~ Thomas Wolfe
" We are the tears that fall from your eyes, word of your word, cry of your cry."
~ Patti Smith
"You left us all alone, just like children who may never find their way back home."
~ Fox Vernon
I have been following Fox Vernon's musical career since we were childhood friends in North Carolina. Fox's musical growth on each new project never ceases to astound me. This is especially true of his newest collection of songs, Ghost.
I offer this writing as a raw response to hearing these songs for the first time and becoming more acquainted with them with repeated listenings. However, I have not yet spoken to my old friend about particular meanings of lyrics, nor his processes of songwriting, recording, and production. My comments are simply those of friend who is still learning how much there is to learn about the ever-groovy, Fox Vernon.
The release of Ghost automatically has my attention. Not solely because I care about my friend's musical output, but also because he is grappling with subject matter with which I am eternally obsessed; grief, mortality, immortality, and yes, ghosts.
Over the past 5 years or so, Fox has experienced multiple losses of friends, family members, and a cherished pet. Each of his new songs reflect those losses which holds the album together thematically. To Fox's credit, he never makes explicit to what loss he is referring in a particular song. Instead, he creates a lyrical and aural landscape that is universal rather than specific. And ghosts haunt this landscape. I suppose "inhabit" or "populate" are better words than "haunt". Fox takes on a very broad-view of ghosts while rarely even using the word "ghost" on the album. He considers their function and their true-nature.
In the opening song, "Bridge to Tomorrow," Fox sings, "What I need is a bridge to tomorrow; cross over the sorrow, and leave behind all of this pain." He asks the "ghost" to be that bridge; to "give [him] the strength and show [him] the way." To deliver this bittersweet message, Fox envelopes the song in lovely chord structure and arrangement. The sound is reminiscent of Steely Dan's balance between a less-is-more approach and lush, layered instrumentation. Fox's guitar solo is not really a solo at all because it is wrought as a complimentary part of the whole sound rather than a virtuosic indulgence.
On the title track Ghost, Fox demonstrates that he has expanded his lyrical palette. From the opening line: "The sky is on my mind / I walk outside to find another cloud to climb" to the chorus, "This is a ghost of a life I thought I'd have", this is perhaps lyrically the strongest song on the album. The instrumentation is very nuanced and textured. In particular, the keyboard add subtle ornamentation to its moody through-line.
Fox's quest for cosmic / spiritual guidance continues on the uptempo, “We Need the Stars” and “Let There Be a Sign.” Although Fox spends much of this album longing for a guide, these two songs in particular remind us that he is hopeful for a peaceful tomorrow. A shout-out to the background singers on “We Need the Stars,” fantastic!
The final song on the album is "You've Got a Lot to Explain.” I believe I hear Van Morrison's influence on some of Fox's vocal phrasing. It works. This song is brutally frank. "You have hidden yourself and never shown your love to me" and "You claim the glory and leave me to rebel" are lyrics that reflect Fox's angst. Then the music and vocals quiet as Fox sings, "But we need a hand, yes we need a hand." As I listen more to this song, it sometimes seems as if Fox is arguing with god itself. Whether this is an accurate reading of the song, I do not know. Nor do I need to. I can enjoy all of the songs on this album on many levels because the lyrics are open to interpretation(s).
Many years ago, Fox and I spent a moment together that has become a pivotal point in my life. We were confused young men but also seekers of philosophical truths. Standing beside the South Toe River in Celo, North Carolina, Fox and I were having another one of our life-talks. At one point, Fox said, "I think we are always going to be somewhat confused." Ordinarily, this would be a rather unsettling comment. But the way he said it was so soothing and calming, so matter-of-fact, that I somehow found myself feeling very secure and confused at the same time. And I felt very bonded to Fox.
All these years later, Fox sings lines like, "You can find what you are missing" and "You still need to find some meaning that will guide you on your way." Dare I ask, is he becoming centered or self-actualized? Is he moving away from our glorious mutual confusion? The friend in me says, "I hope so, good for you! Bravo to a well-traveled journey!" But, I confess, the music fan in me worries that inner-peace will exorcise Fox's ghosts, thereby banishing some of his most fruitful inspirations.
Chuck Denson, producer and voice over artist, Wilmington, NC
Ghost is a multi-layered record. The lyrics are simultaneously literal and figurative, straightforward and subtle. My favorite song is "We Need The Stars." It bounces and moves, and soars.
"You've Got A Lot To Explain" articulates the thoughts of spiritual humanity, clearly and poignantly. This is a smart album that I'll refer to in times of trouble and joy, much like a good book.
Disclaimer: Fox and I have been friends for more years than either of us will admit. This fact does not color my opinion of the record. I really like it. If I didn't, I would have come up with an excuse as to why I could not review it.
I've always known him to be a top notch drummer, but I guess he has been gaslighting us about his other instruments. Everything comes together, in "the pocket," the place where musicians come together.
If you like music with heart, soul and fun, you'll like Ghosts.
Dave Ihmels, singer songwriter, DC Metro Area
Fox Vernon is a gifted multi-instrumentalist with a knack for crafting strong melodies and creating atmosphere. He is also a bit of a riffmeister who excels at song construction. The Ghost EP lives in a good space production-wise, but also maybe literally--in space. He is searching for something, and he often looks above. Check out "We Need the Stars".
Todd Potochnik, songwriter and bassist, DC Metro Area
The aptly named Ghost, a debut EP by singer/songwriter Fox Vernon, reveals a gaze turned inward, exposing haunted memories in five songs that skirt between airy despair and guarded hope and celebration
Playing guitar like a sonic tour guide, staying comfortably between the lines with chordal picking flair and a tone reminiscent of Mark Knopfler, Vernon turns standard songwriting approaches upside down and attempts to make the personal universal. What’s revealed is a private, nearly diary-like longing to connect with the spectral tenants who populate his songs.
The dark, heavy edge of the lyrical style is lightened and blunted by tight song craft and the restrained musical ambitions of his band. There are no superfluous notes here. No accidents. Fox Vernon and Ghost speaks like a man who won’t talk until he’s got something worth saying.
Dan ABH, songwriter, drummer, producer, DC Metro Area
Vernon reminds us that sometimes with a bridge, signs, stars, and a few ghosts, a solid debut of music can emerge. The Ghost EP strikes the contrast between what we love about nostalgic bands like Toad the Wet Sprocket and that good feeling we get from soulful vocals and bluesy guitars all mixed with a melancholy rock vibe.