Fleet Foxes

3 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

Okay, so maybe all the music worth listening to wasn't recorded before 1978. In another attempt to review something current, I recently put aside my pessimistic attitude toward today's music and went on what proved to be a desperate quest. While grunting my way through the CD racks I picked a copy of Mojo Magazine, one of England's most revered magazines, mainly because it had an article about Rod Evans, Deep Purple's first (and best) lead singer. The issue also contained the editor's picks for the best albums of 2008, and sitting at number one was the debut album by Fleet Foxes. I salivated. I respect Mojo's opinions, but when they're wrong, they're as off base as Fannie Mae's Board of Directors. (It was Mojo that predicted British hard rockers The Darkness would be the next big group four years ago. Ever heard of them?). I could visualize some of the phrases in my review, "...not so Fleet Foxes," "Seattle-based band not so foxy." Then I sat down and listened...

My vote for album of the year still goes to Steve Winwood's "Nine Lives," which proved he's got twice as much talent as musicians half his age, or James Hunter's "The Hard Way." Despite Hunter's ineptitude on guitar, he's a soulful, passionate vocalist in the tradition of, well, Steve Winwood. But as I listened to the flavor of the day, The Foxes' music coursed through me like sap on a vine, slowly, steadily warming my soul... Up until The Foxes, the last good things to come out of Seattle were Heart and Edgar Martinez -- and that was way back in the 80s.

The Foxes (vocalist/guitarist Robin Pecknold, nimble guitarist Skyler Skjelset, Plains Indian inspired drummer Josh Tillman, multi-instrumentalist Casey Wescott and somber bassist Christian Wargo), have re-invented Elizabethan folk/rock, taking a page from the playbooks of Renaissance, Fairport Convention, Curved Air, and The October Project. Pecknold has cited The Zombies' "Odessey And Oracle" album as his childhood Holy Grail. It's a leg up for me if you've listened to lead singer Colin Blunstone's gossamer voice, let alone if you know who he is. The Foxes are also fans of a prerequisite obscure cult figure, acid-folkie Joanna Newsome. They also owe a debt to Traffic's flautist Chris Wood, whose influence is felt in the instrumental "Heard Them Stirring." Add in traces of The Band's rustic, woodsy storytelling and Crosby, Stills and Nash's head-spinning harmonies, plus Phil Ek's mystic production, and The Foxes have created Lord of the Rings music.