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Fox finally delivers…..

And boy it was worth the wait.

Bob Harris is just one music fan waxing lyrical about the debut album by Borders singer/songwriter Allie Fox and he's also played a track on his show on BBC Radio Two. Radio Scotland is also supporting the album, playing a track last weekend.

This, coupled with the fact that national music mag Mojo described the album as "a beautiful debut," illustrates in itself the quality of Allie's first solo release.

Diving for Pearls was produced in Edinburgh by top Scottish producer, Iain McKinna, and gets its national launch in Hergé's in Galashiels on Thursday night where Allie will perform songs from the album backed by a five-piece band.

It seems to be a good year since Allie first told me about her debut release, but I think we were assured a quality production from the outset as she announced that some of Scotland's premier session musicians would be performing on it.

Jazz guitarist John Rutherford, formerly involved in the Mike Heron Band, and Dave Haswell (Fish and Capercaillie) are joined by regular contributors Gavin Dickie (Nat Kings) on fretless bass, and David Little, renowned percussionist and producer.

The album itself is not just a shining example of Allie's outstanding technical abilities as a guitarist and singer, nor the perfect song structure and production. What it is, however, is a perfect debut of beautifully honest songs with Allie's reflections and observations of life so far.

Highlights include her ode to American boxer Joe Louis in Joe Louis Blues and Marguerita, the track played by Bob Harris on Radio Two.

She chops and changes styles throughout the album with the occasional nod to Celtic/Latin styles, but mostly she's stuck to the recognised singer songwriter style that she's so respected for.


Allie Fox Boxing the Blues

Allie Fox has just dropped off a promo track from her new solo album and it's going to establish her as one of the finest singer-songwriters in the Borders.

Joe Louis Blues is a taster track from her new album Diving for Pearls released on Allie's own Vixen Records. The track features John Rutherford on slide guitar and a recording with the people of Nakibembe Village in Uganda deep down in the mix.

Joe Louis Blues was inspired by the story of Joe Louis who was born in a small shack in Alabama and grew up to become one of the most famous heavyweight boxing champions of this century.

"Joe Louis was a true hero of his time - he was more powerful even than the strength of his fists. He became a universal symbol of hope and achievement, and he showed how the human spirit can overcome against all the odds."

The track is an epic at well over five minutes and features Allie's famed finger-picking and some great blues riffs, superb production and Allie's pure and powerful voice.

Allie Fox - Diving for Pearls

This album is an object lesson in the need to listen to the whole thing before trying to evaluate it…..

The first couple of tracks seemed to be some good, solid work, but….on the third track, Rise and Shine, Fox really finds her voice, showing her ability to work with words, and with tunes as well. This continues with the next selection, Birdwoman. A sticker on the booklet suggests that commercial radio play the fifth track, Marguerita, and I can see why; it doesn't underestimate the mass audience's taste for simplicity. But Fox returns to form with I Was Wrong, an understated song about homelessness that compares very favorably with Phil Collins' "Another Day in Paradise"--generally considered the definitive pop ballad on the topic. The title tune, a meditation on the limitations of love; and Joe Louis Blues, which uses the boxing great's career as a metaphor for freedom fighters of all types, seem to me a near-tie for the album's best tracks.

Fox's first album shows an artist of great substance…. at the very least she can look forward to a successful career as a niche artist, and quite possibly more.

At various times while listening to the album, I thought of Holly Near, Frentel, Suzanne Vega, Joni Mitchell, and Kirsty MacColl. But the best songs on it didn't remind me of anyone--the sure sign of an original.

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