On his latest album, Fox Hollow Memories, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Troy Engle offers up a series of sweet sentiments, inspired by the time spent writing and hanging with the great Ton T Hall at Hall’s Franklin Tennessee farm, Fox Hollow. While Hall himself is present on only one of the songs — the tender serenade Let’s Go Walking (“There’s something about walking around this old place, with a tear in our eyes and a smile on our face”) — the unabashed emotion and enthusiasm that were so intrinsic to Hall’s signature style is evident throughout.
It’s found here in the jaunty, fiddle-fueled How’s It Feel, the tender, heart-felt reflection of love and loss borne by Mama What Does Heaven Look Like There, and the dutiful devotion expressed in Angels Gathering Flowers. So too, there’s no negating the would-be anthem That’s Kentucky, an upbeat salute to the bluegrass state and the great American icons it nurtured — “Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln, not to mention Bill Monroe.”
Still, many of these tunes offer more than opportunity for reflection. The title track is both revealing and revelatory, allowing the listeners to imagine themselves as flies on the wall while Engle relates what he experienced during his songwriting sessions with the man that became a mentor. So too, the easy and breezy Be What You’re Wanting Your Neighbor to Be reminds us that the Golden Rule is especially worth remembering nowadays, perhaps more so than ever. Engle offers inspiration in other ways as well — the sway and serenade of the thoughtful Everybody’s Got a Light is, in itself, an ode to optimism. And when Engle sings, “I firmly believe that everything’s going to be alright,” the comfort and compassion is impossible to dismiss.
Even though Fox Hollow Memories leans heavily on Gospel music to propel many of its precepts, the appeal ought to extend well beyond true believers. The sentiment and assurance will likely resonate with anyone in need of help and hope in these troubled times, regardless of their own sources of spirituality. The rousing revelry found in Fisherman’s Prayer, Where’s the Lonesome, and Leaving Shoes offers cause to shed one’s concerns, at least for the time being.
Ultimately, Engle deserves credit for transporting his listeners to the place that became his own source of inspiration and rejuvenation. It’s good to experience the memories shared in these songs and, in turn, give listeners their own reason to rejoice.