Bears & Bulls
San Francisco-based blues rock quartet The Stone Foxes aren’t out to please the masses — thankfully. They’re doing their own thing, taking pointers from groups like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Faces, Black Crowes and North Mississippi Allstars, mixing it all together, kneading it, rolling it out and throwing it in the oven to see what happens.
And boy can they cook, down-home style, with lots of country subtleties that sneak up and surprise. The democratic lineup has Spence Koehler as lead guitarist; Avi Vinocur as second axeman, unless he and bassist Aaron Mort swap; and brother Shannon Koehler holding it together on drums. When vocal chores aren’t rotated among the four, they’re shared, and all sing background at one point or another.
Coming out swinging is “Stomp”: The nearly a cappella group-vocal number begins with bass drum and clapping, then adds lap steel, harmonica and twin lap steel — all making for an early 20th-century revivalist tent atmosphere.
“Patience” is a breakup song whose arrangement evolves from standard lead and rhythm guitar into fiery double-lead that makes its point well. “Passenger Train” features Ron Wood-style pedal steel. “Easy” has mandolin, “Reno” showcases more double lead guitar and “Through the Fire” is a power ballad to do Keith Richards proud.
Two standouts: the electric-slide-drenched cover of Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster,” sounding like Zep circa “Physical Graffiti” meets “Tied to the Tracks”-era Treat Her Right; and the cleverly imagined “I Killed Robert Johnson.”
3. I Killed Robert Johnson
4. Passenger Train
5. Young Man
8. Through the Fire
9. Little Red Rooster
10. Hyde & Pine
11. Mr. Hangman
12. Come Again
Total time: 48:21