Listen Again: David Fox’s ‘Scratches and Dust’

Image courtesy of David Fox

The resurrected ‘Listen Again’ series takes a second look at previously released platters.

For those music lovers who missed the first (or even second or third incarnation) of “Listen Again,” “Listen Again” is a review series in which we revisit releases that, for whatever reason, never received the attention or acclaim they might have deserved when they first hit the record bins. Whether it was because the album was ahead of its time, strayed from the artist’s expected style, was misunderstood, or just not properly promoted, the “Listen Again” series urges music fans to “listen again.” This time we revisit David Fox’s debut disc Scratches and Dust.  

David Fox

Photo by Jodi Samsel

David Fox is an American singer-songwriter and musician based out of New Jersey. According to his official website, he is a multi-instrumentalist. He plays guitar, keyboards, bass, and drums.

Signature Sound

David Fox’s signature sound is a blend of acoustic, rock ‘n’ roll, and power pop. His earliest sources of inspiration include Duane Eddy, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison. Other influences appear to include The Beach Boys, the Beatles, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan.    

Scratches and Dust

Scratches and Dust is Fox’s 16-track premiere platter that dropped in 2012. Fox wrote all the songs. The material presented here focuses on both personal concerns and universal themes. In a recent communique, he spoke of the album.  

He said: “[It’s] a collection of mostly rock and power pop songs on a range of topics.” With one exception, he adds: “I also played all the instruments. Sang all the parts, arranged, produced and engineered” the release.  

Track by Track

The album opener is “Airport.” It’s an upbeat tune that works well as the lead-in. It also sets the general mood of the album.    

The retro-induced music continues to flow smoothly with “All Around You.” Much like the majority of the cuts here, it features familiar yet original guitar work too.

“Desolation” musically poses a question concerning the absence of greed. Perhaps there is an influential tint of David Bowie in the song too. Fox sings the word “desolation” with a stutter similar to the one used by Bowie in the classic cut “Changes.” Mind you, that is where any comparison ends as Fox does his own thing elsewhere on the track.  

The titular “Scratches and Dust” is next. Initially, one may be generally clueless regarding the album’s title. Once you hear this track, you will understand why it received the honor. It’s a stand-alone song, reflecting on a time when people listened to actual albums and the music truly meant so much more. (Gotta love the references to iconic acts, too.)

Fox explained the meaning of the title and the album itself. He stated: “Scratches and Dust is a collection of personal stories set to music inspired by the sounds of the 1960s and ‘70s. All those great vinyl records, as dust-covered and scratched as they sometimes were, making magic sounds that went through my ears, entered my soul, and made me feel like I belonged.”

Not to be confused with the 2006 Papa Roach cut, this “Reckless”, like all the other songs here, is an original. It comes complete with a sense of youthfulness. It is an obvious expression of his inner teen. It’s musically a bit more aggressive in its approach, lyrically simplistic, and undeniably effective.

“Greed” touches on a previous theme. Here Fox determines that the world’s woes are ultimately the result of greed on a track that contains musical elements very reminiscent of classic cuts from decades past.   

By the time “The One Who Loves You” opens, Fox’s signature sound is evident even to the casual listener.  It is solid yet not overworked. He is, for the most part, a one-man show so he need not commercially compromise. He makes the songs sound like he’s having fun.  

“Carnival Motion” is a bit of retro-reminisce that tunefully takes the listener from the 1960s through the 21st century. It serves as a reminder that regardless of current events, life goes on. The carnival concept evokes a sense of summer that almost reminds one of the acts that made the 1960s what they were.

“Hard to Say Goodnight” seems oddly placed. Still, having said that, it is otherwise no disappointment in terms of the music or lyrics. No doubt this one works exceptionally well with a live audience and would work well on a movie soundtrack.  

“Clutter” is anything but. It reminds the listener that clutter can be both physical and mental and briefly notes the problems related to each of them.        

“Wild Wild East” is, like the other cuts, a Fox composition. It is, however, the only track where he does not do everything himself. This one was co-produced by Joe Mass who also plays keyboards, slide guitar, and bass. Bill and Dan Aubel guest on background vocals. It works well on this otherwise DIY disc and must be a fave of the folks Fox grew up with too.  

The next number is “Nightbird.” This one may be a bit overshadowed and yet it retains its own little identity regardless of its placement.

 The bright “Blues and Greens” is a sunny selection wherein Fox focuses on a calm, peaceful, trouble-free moment in time. It is undoubtedly a fan fave and has a warmth and cheerfulness all its own.  

 “When” also appears to address the concept of greed. Something about the opening is somehow vaguely reminiscent of a post-Beatles George Harrison composition. At any rate, this one makes a songful sociological statement that is focused on the need for a change in how people treat each other.

“Heading Down the Shore” has an obvious east coast feel to it. Mind you, unless you live there, you probably would not understand why just the title alone sounds so much like home to anyone who once did live there but for one reason or another was uprooted and relocated. This one, like “Wild Wild East”, definitely speaks to Fox’s roots and environment.  

 The closing cut is titled “And the Walls Came Down.” Here listeners are treated to one final example of Fox’s abilities. Despite the earlier mention of “Hard to Say Goodnight”, this one serves as a surprisingly effective and apt album endnote.  

Listen Again

With a running time of one hour and four minutes, this blast from the recent past is well produced. The melodic material is intimate and often passionate. Fox tunefully tells tales that are often nostalgic and revelatory of his love of “the classics.”  

He knows where to draw the line as he musically walks the razor’s edge between derivation and inspiration. So, if you have not yet heard David Fox’s Scratches and Dust, listen to it. If you’ve already listened to it…listen again