Nathan Evans Fox’s ‘Kindness’ gives us a poignant and realistic take on our individual and collective need for benevolence. These songs aren’t banal odes to empathy but an honest and adult version of kindness as an individual’s work in progress. The album’s 10 songs include two upbeat numbers but Fox’s natural home seems to be in the measured and reflective.
The arrangements are suitably sparse with banjo, fiddle and the recurring use of a gentle insistent keyboard drone that’s perfectly suited to the material. ‘Crazy’ has a keening fiddle that demanded a second listen for this reviewer, and ‘All Dry Out’ uses soft vocal lines that marry with the song’s yearning.
Fox has a lyrical ability throughout that keeps delivering unexpected poetic gifts. ‘I Want You’ isn’t about lust, but instead the unexpressed in a relationship. It’s hard not to see his former career as hospital chaplain in lines like “Our bed becomes an altar / We’re just bread and wine / We’re nothing but breath and dust / Drifting out through time” and “..my words lost heaven’s tongue”. ‘Crazy’ captures longing for the loved and familiar with this: “the gravity of simple things / start pulling me back home”. Those lines alone have entered my own personal lexicon.
The subject of ‘Treat Me Like the Whisky’ is “Too far gone from nowhere / Too reckless to atone”. In addition to these, there’s plain language for frailty: “I ain’t good at much”; “I want you to want me”; “You’re so damn good at forgiveness… These are things I could never learn on my own”.
Fox describes kindness as something that “..ain’t nice”, and that’s true of this collection. There’s scorn and self pity here, but also a searching. It’s hard-won work on the spirit. You feel that Fox is trying, and it’s a compliment to his material that it makes you want to try harder too.