To usher in the first month of 2021 and to get you through the wintry mix, we’re announcing the January selection for our Record of the Month Club.
Club Members will be getting a copy of Bill Fox’s second album, Transit Byzantium–out of print on CD since 1998 and first time ever on vinyl–the record has been remastered and pressed on limited, white vinyl by SCAT Records, which is the home to indie stalwarts Guided By Voices.
Bill Fox, of Cleveland, Ohio, is known for being a reclusive songwriter. His debut album from 1997, Shelter From the Smoke, is always in our staff picks section at the record store (when it’s in print). The songs remind us of the double-vocal stylings of Elliott Smith but not quite so depressing and more power pop oriented. Fox uses the 4-track recorder to near perfection. The limitation in just 4 tracks make the songs stand on their own…no gimmicks.
Fox’s second solo album–from 1998–pushes his music further away from pop toward a kind of lo-fi folk sound–recorded primarily on acoustic guitar, with only the occasional touch of harmonica and the even less frequent hint of percussion, Transit Byzantine is rootsy and raw, with the uncluttered arrangements of tracks like “From a Dark Night,” “Songs of a Drunken Nightingale” and “Burning Down a Snowflake” preserving the songs’ intimacy and warmth.
From SCAT Records:
These newly remastered editions of Bill Fox’s second album are the first since its 1998 release, including the first-ever vinyl pressing. Listeners will hear a wider soundstage, more detail, and improved listenability. Recorded on 4-track cassette, the fidelity belies the sophistication and nuance of the songwriting, This adept remaster by John Golden Sr helps bring definition to the intimate, at-home feel of the album. It sparkles.
Very similar in feel and quality to Fox’s debut album, much of Transit Byzantium draws from the same group of recordings. It has the same feel of musical inevitability, that the songs exist beyond time itself, their eventual manifestation guaranteed by Apollo. He could’ve given them to the Everly Brothers, or the Byrds, or the Who, but instead they were channeled through an everyman from Cleveland with an aversion to the limelight. And while a traditional folk influence colors several songs, even those possess the indelible stamp of Fox’s charismatic voice and personality. Although nearly entirely acoustic and with minimal percussion, these eighteen songs cycle through a remarkable variety of textures and moods.
While much has quite rightly been written about the god-tier songwriting here (“Song of a Drunken Nightingale,” “My Baby Crying,” “I’ll Give It Away” for starters), it should also be noted that this is a guitar player’s record, though more in terms of conception than flash. Lines of harmony and counterpoint wander between parts, sublime in their invention though sometimes crudely documented.