High Comma, the debut EP from Reese McHenry & The Fox, features McHenry—whose voice is perhaps the most powerful in the Triangle—going back to a familiar two-piece format. She first made her name with such a layout more than a dozen years ago, with the original incarnation of The Dirty Little Heaters. McHenry has said that she loves the raw energy of a rock duo, and High Comma's four tracks have that in spades.
Since those early days with the Heaters, McHenry has also long admired multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Stephen Gardner, with whom she shared bills when he played with The T's and The Cartridge Family. As The Fox, Gardner adds drums and backing vocals while helping craft arrangements for McHenry's candid writing that give her the opportunity to show versatility beyond the Heaters' bludgeoning blues-rock. The duo is still mighty forceful, bolstered on the recording by bass contributed by producer-engineer Dave Bartholomew.
Opener "Heather" is a bit of a meta Triangle music scene moment in which McHenry recalls the first time she witnessed Heather McEntire—another of the area's most captivating vocalists—fronting her former outfit Bellafea. "I sit still and teary/listening desperately," McHenry howls over angular guitar and an aggressive rhythm that hints at McEntire's more punk, less pastoral early material.
Another of McHenry's favorite things, the Rosie and the Originals song "Angel Baby," inspired "May Baby," which perfectly casts her emotive wail to a classic love tale set in the dying days of summer. There, McHenry toughens the influence of doo-wop and early pop-rock ballads with a heftier guitar crunch. "Workin' Dog" and "If He Don't" both blast out of the gate, favoring the rough-and-tumble rock and McHenry's rafter-rattling pipes. High Comma shows McHenry stretching into new territory while continuing to prove herself one of the most compelling leaders and voices around. —