“Home is where we shelter out the storm, and home is where the fire keeps us warm,” sings Leftover Salmon banjo-picker Andy Thorn on the opening track from his new solo release, Fox Songs and Other Tales from the Pandemic, an album crafted during the dark days of a growing worldwide pandemic and a gentle rumination on life.
When the world shut down and cancelled all the shows, Thorn found himself, like the rest of the music industry, home with nowhere to go. He also soon found himself with a new child on the way. Inspired by a fox who made his home near Thorn’s house and who would visit daily, Thorn and his wife Cecelia began writing songs together to process their changing lives as viewed from their mountain home, eventually recording them in a home studio constructed in the basement of their house. Thorn played all the instruments on the album, with additional vocals from his wife. For Thorn stepping outside of his comfort zone musically, and tackling both the bass and simple drum parts that adorn the album, helped create a record delivered with a simple innocence where each song sounds instantly like an old friend.
Over the past year we have begun to see a glut of pandemic related releases from artists that were recorded at home amid the pandemic. Some speak to the gloom and doom, while others like Thorn’s try to find the light in the darkness. Still, it is not all rainbows and sunshines on Fox Songs (though there is the album closing “Stepped in a Rainbow”) as Thorn sings of the daily grind we all felt while trapped home, and how simple chores like taking out the trash become momentous events in our lives. When listening to the album that was written as events transpired and confusion reigned, it is easy to relive those moments of anxiety that become commonplace for all us. On Fox Songs Thorn finds the hopeful positive side to the situation, most notably on “Every Day That I Don’t Have To Leave,” in which Thorn, who has spent the better part of his adult life touring non-stop, sings of new-found joy from being home, “Every day I get to spend with you, is another day that life is getting sweeter/ And everyday I sing a morning tune, just grateful that sun did rise again,” before imparting sage advice, “Let’s be still for a moment/ Let this run its course/ What was so important about the life before, lives mean so much more.”
There are not the freewheeling flights of banjo fancy that you expect to find from Thorn’s work with Leftover Salmon. And for this album that is perfect, as it is instead a collection of sweetly picked, tender tunes that put a smile on your face. It is a love song to the Thorn’s time spent at home, to their friend the fox, to their unborn child Barry, and to each other, and in these times of uncertainty those are the best kind of songs.