“What a strange, strange year we have all had.” So begin the sleeve notes for Tony Cox’s new album The World Went Quiet. Cox was born in Zimbabwe, has won multiple South African Music Awards, was unknown to me until I came to this album – and is an absolutely stunning steel string guitar player.
The album has ten tracks, three with lyrics, and the remainder, rather obviously, being instrumental. They’re jolly good. It’s the kind of playing you want to see live just to convince yourself there are only two hands, not two musicians, such is the speed of the right hand picking the strings – at times as fluidly as though the music was rolling down a hill, at other times with a more paused precision to the intonation of the picking. The left hand is clearly capable of moving from the lower to higher frets … at what seems like the speed of sound.
Cox is also a pretty mean composer of songs as well as music. The opening track of the album, ‘One And Only’, deals with the complexities of domestic abuse, sung in a duet with Thuli Cox. The lyrics, singing, playing, slightly distant production make this a harrowing listen – and great piece of art. If that song pulls me into the emotions of the later stages of Lou Reed’s Berlin album, ‘Bathed In Blue’ pulls me into the emotions of Auden’s ‘Oh What Is That Sound?’ – but, judging by the rhythms of the guitar and the photo in the accompanying lyric book, Cox is referencing modern Africa rather than Thirties Europe:
“…I never stop
Thinking of you
Then men came
To bash my door
Said if I stay here
I won’t live no more…”
I opened with the Cox’s beginning sleeve notes, I’ll close with the concluding ones, “I have put my heart and soul into [this music] and if I’m lucky you will hear that…Yours in the great power of music”.
The great power of music – pretty good description of the attraction of The World Went Quiet.
Artist’s website: http://www.tonycox.co.za
‘One And Only’ – lyric video: