Raised in North Carolina and now based in Nashville, originally trained as a hospital chaplain, Wasted Love marks Fox’s fourth album which, written as his mother cared for his grandmother in her last days, embraces themes of unconditional love, loss and recharging our energy. While he brings a moderately uptempo note in places (his grandmother always urged him to play a fast song), essentially it’s rooted in familiar introspective folk, opening with ‘One Of These Days’, a song about beyond getting past the roots of your raising, a churchy organ sound reflecting his upbringing surrounded by hymns (“One of these days I’m gonna move on/From all these church songs I been dragging along/Play something country”) and taking a chance (“You can stay home/Or you can get lost”).
He kicks up the good ol’ boys twang and pace with ‘Mercedes Benz’ which, while not the Janis Joplin song does have the same sentiment, written about, having been battered on all side by death, the pandemic and a tornado, spotting a burgundy 90’s Mercedes Benz in a local garage that chimed with his wife’s personality, the promise of purchasing the vehicle serving as metaphor for resilience in troubled times (“Guess it’s up to us to be good to each other, else there ain’t no use in getting through it”).
The church backdrop returns for the gospel sway ‘Lordhamercy’, another song about getting through hard times (“Won’t you lay down your worries on our dresser/On this bed lay down all that you can bare/In this darkness we will find our own blessing”), the rolling country rhythms of ‘Carolina Boy’ striking further confessional autobiographical notes :
Grandaddy was a drinker and gambler too/Grandmama’d dip and curse while my uncle chased perfume/We got three strains of weed ‘tween the corn seeds/And we got harder stuff… Momma’s still a brawler, did mescaline/Daddy acts like laws are flexible things/It was military school if the money wasn’t tight/Thank God that it was/So my folks kept me in playing church songs on most Friday nights
It’s a number that draws on his complicated relationship with his hometown and why he’s not likely to return (“Ain’t nothing back home but a minefield of cornfields, old flames, and bad drugs/Momma said ‘Better not stick around here, boy; when you leave stick to beer.’”).
Vehicles once again serve metaphorical ends with the funky Southern country ‘Good Trucks’, a number he describes threading the needle “between what makes for good politics, good character, and good automotive engineering: humility, flexibility, grit, sass, reliability, and a feel for what is actually helpful to others”, in other words it’s about living your life according to a solid moral foundation and values (“Loving who ya love/Bills coming due/Making sure folks is all taken care of/Working hard if you can”), getting past your demons (“There’s gotta be a way to fix some broken things and stop running on fumes… I’m losing my mind, and trying to drink less”) and the hillbilly wisdom that “Being strong ain’t always the same as being tough”.
When the tornado hit, it tore away the roof of their apartment home, which along with trying to stay sane when lockdown had severed connections and the “peddlers of panic” were the loudest voices , provides the foundation for the simple folksy fingerpicked acoustic dusty-voiced ‘When They Take the House’ (“Searching for static with a head full of sound/Wishing something like whiskey could drown this noise out/Making friends with my crazy and getting along/With a head full of somebody else’s songs”), again serving up a homespun aphorism in
“When they take the house, don’t let ‘em take the fire”.
It leads, appropriately enough, to the soulful Penn and Oldham like strum of the safe harbour ‘These Four Walls’ (“This whole damn world’s boarded up and going inside/And the music in this town has up and died…These four walls are whatever we make of ‘em/These days I’m home, these days I’m staying/Never wanted nothing like I want you/Never wanted nothing ‘til I wanted you”).
Elsewhere, toned with an Earle-like Southern drawl country rock, ‘Damn Hard’, featuring childhood friend Michael Harris on slide, pretty much speaks for itself (“Damn hard to quit this drinking/Damn hard to find good luck/Damn hard to make money in this line of working/Damn harder to give it on up”), while the quietly aching ‘Some Things Are Coming Back Again’ draws on his work as a hospital chaplain and learning how to use grief to take stock of what lies ahead, about what fades away and what come around, the lyrics referencing the reunion of a favourite band from his teenage days, stock car legends Junior Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Porter Wagner forty-fives.
It winds to a close with the steady drum beat of the fingerpicked ‘What’s Intended’, a memory of and tribute to his grandmother that also embraces his sense of his roots (“Seems I’m losing the sound of your voice in my head/Guess I’m losing my accent again”) and how life plays out its design (“I’m the son of somebody’s daughter/You’re the daughter of somebody’s son/Whole world just keeps on spinning/Coming undone/Take me where the dust comes from”).
Following on from the slow walking, laid back conversational feel of ‘Put Money Down’. a celebration of the mundane that are the nuts and bolts of a life (“Long as there’s a bed, long as there’s a porch, long as there’s a kitchen, and a front door/Long as we know when to patch things up and when to let ‘em go”) it closes with the title track, ‘Wasted Love’, a song, inspired by his mother tending his grandmother, the generosity of caretaking love, a reminder that there is never a surplus of affection and that time spent with those you love is never wasted, however short it may be.
Artist’s website: www.nathanevansfox.com
‘Cigarettes And Moonpies’ – live: