About a year-and-a-half ago, former schoolmates and friends Raph Odell Shapiro, Jenner Snow Fox, and Hans Theodore Bilger relocated to Austin, Texas to continue their work as members of the folk Americana trio Odell Fox. Since then, they’ve spent countless weeks away from home, performing shows and building up a steady fan base across the country. We have one extended stop in particular, Nashville, Tennessee, (and the work of producer Kai Welch) to thank for today’s release of Odell Fox’s first album, Thank You.
While their sound is somewhat reminiscent of The Wood Brothers, what sets Odell Fox apart is the balancing act they have struck between founders Shapiro and Fox. Shapiro explains, “What really excites me about this group is how we take turns taking lead, that everyone has something to contribute.” And since Shapiro and Fox both have such unique voices, it is a treat to be able to hear them both equally on the album.
The album is also a balance of Shapiro and Fox’s distinct songwriting styles. With the exception of “Sometimes I Can’t Trust My Brain,” which was a collaboration between Shapiro and Fox, the album is split evenly with three of Shapiro’s songs (“Medicine Man,” “Carry Me Over,” and “Song For Allison”) and three of Fox’s songs (“Thank You,” “Holes,” and “Broken”).
And while noticeably different, both artist’s styles bring something unique to the album. In “Song For Allison,” Shapiro’s ability to transport and move his listeners with his lyrics is evident from lines such as, “She was drinking red wine in a lavender field, and the sky was on fire like a tangerine peel.” Paired with the humming harmonies of Fox and Bilger that build at the end of Shapiro’s vocals, one cannot help but feel completely enveloped in the warmth of an orange sky. “Broken,” on the other hand, allows Fox to show off his holistic approach to storytelling. Fox’s use of musical repetition in the verses cleverly mocks the sound of a broken record, while his lyrical modifications, such as “a cheating man, a bad hand, motherless, cannabis, constipated, stress related, no intercourse since the divorce, I did my best to hear the rest, she said ‘no one understands what I mean,’ began to scream,” hold us up just long enough to feel the same cathartic release the inhabitants of the song must feel with the line, “Broken but I love you just the same.”
Even though there are definitely differences in their songwriting, the group’s musical arrangements bring these styles together to form a seven track album that has variety and intrigue but still makes perfect sense as a whole. For example, the title track, Fox’s “Thank You,” would be incomplete without Shapiro’s harmonica and Bilger’s “round and rounds” during the breakdown. “We have different strengths, and we all enjoy supporting each other in those and making sure they’re showcased,” says Shapiro.
One strength Shapiro and Fox share, however, is their lyrical ability. They may write differently, but the album as a whole is filled with one ingenious one-liner after another, and a multitude of beautiful stories worth listening to.
Thank You is also the groups first record since the addition of Bilger to Odell Fox. Bilger’s tender tenor voice and upright bass add another dimension to the album, rounding out the groups sound both vocally and rhythmically. You can notice the difference between Thank You and the groups 2016 release, Moonshiner EP, right away when you hear the walking bass line in the opening track “Medicine Man.” Bilger is a songwriter as well, and although none of his songs appear on Thank You, after listening to some of his earlier solo work on the Odell Fox website I am sure it is only a matter of time before he steps up to take lead vocals on a few tunes of his own.
Check out Thank You for yourself below: