Album Review of
Chris Haddox

Written by Joe Ross
April 10, 2022 - 11:39am EDT
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West Virginian Chris Haddox has an affable style that is a little folk, tad country, and bit o’ bluegrass as he presents a baker’s dozen of original compositions with Americana charm. Since writing his first song in second grade, Haddox offers keen observations about “people, places, events, ups and downs, and in-betweens.” A couple things are certain, and that is he keeps his songs straight-forward, conversational, accessible and memorable. He also finds catchy hooks that pull you into songs like “Says You, Says Who, Says Me,” “Sunday Morning Stoplight” and “Life Without Me” that are colored with tasty instrumental breaks and fills by Johnny Staats (mandolin) and Chris Stockwell (Dobro). 

I was familiar with award-winning West Virginian multi-instrumentalist Johnny Staats, but many of Haddox’s solid regional sidemen are unfamiliar to me but certainly deserving of greater recognition. “Money Tree” establishes a sweet bluesy groove with Bud Carroll’s electric guitar and Ron Sowell’s harmonica. The eclectic Haddox channels a 1920s parlor vibe in “Nothing Say it’s Springtime like the Redbud” that’s presented in a Western Swing setting, although I would’ve lobbied for some fiddle or pedal steel also in the mix.  

A professor at West Virginia University, Chris Haddox is also an accomplished banjo player, and his frailing or three-finger picking are heard on several tracks like the bluegrassy “Streets of Danville,” evocative duet (with Mira Costa) “We Can Fall in Love Again,” and a snappy little new old-time ditty called “Tree Frog.” With fiddle, accordion and mandolin in the mix, one interesting, and timely, ballad is “Kalashnikov,” a poignant and insightful perspective from the proud, patriotic and regretful inventor of the automatic weapon. Dave Shrewsbury’s organ and piano are a very nice touch in “O’ This River,” a reflective song that is based on a conversation Haddox had with a long-time resident of White Sulphur, WV after the town was devastated by flooding in 2016. An astute observer, Haddox has created enchanting folk tunes that capture many emotional moods from sadness to joy, sorrow to happiness.

Haddox’s charismatic, witty nature is apparent in a song about being taken in by a carnival barker, “He Reeled Me In,” with colorings of Doug Payne’s clarinet and Ted Harrison’s tuba. I get the impression that Haddox and his musical West Virginia friends had a real fun time putting this project together, and their joy projects into the songs, sung from the heart with sincerity, honesty and modest eloquence. Closing with “A Soul Can’t Rest in Peace Beside the Four Lane,” has an environmental message that evolves into a Celtic-infused “Haymond’s Lament” to end the set in a very contemplative way.  (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)