Last week brought an oddity of an album from Leftover Salmon banjoist Andy Thorn, who was not just inspired by but literally wrote the album for a newfound furry companion. Thorn, whose past album releases are premeditated and well-planned, got to unexpectedly writing and recording music when Mother Nature sent him a new boss in the form of a wild fox. Yes, you read that right. A literal fox. Last year, while in his backyard in the foothills outside of Boulder, a lone fox showed up and seemed to enjoy Thorn’s casual banjo pickin’. His wife managed to film the entire encounter, the video went viral and the rest is history.
The album, Songs of the Sunrise Fox, consists of 15 relatively improvised and entirely instrumental banjo songs. After recurring encounters with and getting clear approval from his new friend “Foxy,” Thorn decided to take these impromptu nature tunes to the studio and add them to his professional musical repertoire. While Thorn is used to performing jammier, dancier-style string music with Leftover Salmon, the 15 songs on the album are organic and acoustic in all of their unplanned glory. Because a friend of a friend is a friend, Thorn got keyboardist Erik Deutsch, bassist Greg Garrison and guitarist Tyler Grant to add their flare to the album, Foxy permitting.
Thorn’s friendship with the fox is certainly charming, but is also much bigger than that, proving the power of music and the connectivity of the art form. “Music is pretty subjective, but it works best when it touches on something universal,” Thorn said of his frequent visitor. “Nature is the source of all music, but it’s probably always listening, too.” The unlikely relationship goes to show the oneness and intimacy of all life. Music comes from nature, people do too, and “foxes, like us, are one part of the whole.”
The theme of Songs of the Sunrise Fox is nature, with songs like “Red Sun Salutation” and “Dawn is Coming” encapsulating all the natural wonder that Thorn witnesses from the comfort of his backyard. Inside his home, Thorn captured some of the milestones that occurred in his life over the past year, such as the birth of his son and his son’s first steps, with songs like “Stork Bite” and “Barry’s Bounce.” These songs come full circle with Thorn’s recently reported signings of fox cubs in the area following a brief disappearance over the summer.
Though live music continues to return in full force and his calendar continues to fill up with tour dates, Thorn will always have Foxy, who has been surprisingly similar to human audiences. “It’s clear when he likes what I’m playing,” Thorn said. “If he doesn’t like it, he just walks away, which is pretty familiar, actually.” The story of Foxy is a heart-warming feel-good tale, made even more special and timeless with the commemorative album that Thorn hopes sends joy to its listeners.