Ohio based Bob Fox started out playing boogie woogie piano in 1956. He subsequently switched to guitar, learning from records by the likes of Leadbelly and by watching musicians playing in Greenwich Village while he grew up. He honed his skills further at the feet of Rev. Gary Davis. Fox pays tribute to his many influences on his latest album, "Blues Makes Me Happy," which mostly focuses on his guitar playing but includes a few piano based numbers too.
The opening cover of Big Bill Broonzy's "Hey Hey" offers a gentle introduction to Fox's talents. He comes across as a good guitarist with a nice relaxed voice that sit easily with the material. He builds on this by showing his slide skills on "John Henry." This track encapsulates a lot of Fox's philosophy of injecting new life into older songs by writing and performing his own arrangement.
Fox returns to his first instrument on the solo piano instrumental of the title track. Although Fox may focus mainly on his guitar playing on the album, he is equally at home on the 88s. He proves this by following it up with "Bob's West Coast Blues," a traditional tune to which he has added his own lyrics. After a guitar-based interlude ("Some Sweet Day") Fox returns to the piano for "Dupree Blues."
The first original guitar piece is another instrumental, "Piedmont Rag." Here Fox lets his fingers do the talking on a tune that reflects its title. There are three other guitar instrumentals that all maintain Fox's high standard. For Pete Seeger's "Living in the Country" and his own "It's So Easy" Fox picks up his 12-string, returning to slide for an excellent rendition of "Furry's Warmup."
The album closes out with a brace of piano tunes. The first is an original piece hinting at Big Maceo's "Worried Life Blues." The second is a fine take on Pete Johnson's "Climbing and Screaming." It is a fitting way to sign off, given that it was the Boogie Woogie Boys (Johnson, Lewis and Ammons) that provided some of Fox's earliest influences.
"Blues Makes Me Happy" is a fine album which demonstrates how Bob Fox managed to beat 16 bands to the runner up slot in last year's River City Blues Competition. Fox is a good guitarist who seems equally at home on six string (slide, delta and fingerpicking) and twelve string, and is definitely no slouch on the piano either. Those who like acoustic blues will find that "Blues Makes Me Happy" more than lives up to its name.
Barking Fox Ltd., P.O. Box 14387, Columbus, OH 43214.
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