"The best way to describe it is if you took the Rolling Stones, and you had Hendrix and they had the Black Crowes and they had Zeppelin all mixed together, with more of a blues feel to it, and a little bit of chocolate around it for sweetener," says local guitarist Justin Fox of his new direction.
Fox and his band, Catfish Lane, first surfaced in the area three years back when the then 15-year-old guitar prodigy took third place in a Triangle Blues Society's talent contest.
In addition to his new sound, Fox is celebrating turning 18. "Thank God," says Fox, admitting to growing tired of being promoted as "the kid."
"They don't really take notice of any of the actual things you're playing, it's just the fact that you can play those things and do those things that amaze them," Fox says. "But they don't really pay attention to what you're playing. Now that I'm getting older, what they say, or what I hope they'll say is, 'I like that song, or I like that sound,' or 'I like the way he plays that,' not 'Oh, I can't believe he can do that.'"
Fox's career has been a family affair. His father was the band's bass player until three months ago, when he quit "to take a real job," Fox says. Most young guitar slingers would find it strange to have dad sitting in with the band, but Fox says that's all he's known since he was 15. The band started up as Justin Fox and the Bloodhounds with father and son sharing vocal duties. Terry Fox had played with rock bands including Air Tight in the '70s, performed a lot of acoustic stuff with his family in the '80s then took a break from music before hooking up with his son.
"It was my idea," says the younger Fox, who got interested in music five years ago when he got a guitar for Christmas. At the time, Terry was teaching guitar to one of Justin's friends. "I was like, 'If you're gonna teach him, teach me too,'" says Fox.
The family was even willing to move from their hometown of Raleigh to Wilmington so Fox could pursue his dream. The guitarist believed there were more blues-friendly venues in Wilmington, which is also home to the band's drummer and management.
"We used to have huge following back during the whole Stevie Ray and Texas blues thing," Fox said. The guitarist sings in a style similar to Vaughn, who he says was a key influence. Fox didn't just copy the style. He explored Vaughn's influences like Hendrix and Albert King. "It was working out fine, but Wilmington's really starting to drop off on the blues stuff," Fox says. "But here lately, we've been doing a few shows with our new stuff, and people have been pretty responsive. I think they just want to hear something new from everyone."