As warm and inviting as a setting sun over the ridges of the Rocky Mountains in summertime, the vocal that Dr. John Fell unleashes from behind the mic in “Fragile,” the new single from his band DocFell & Co., is perhaps the smokiest we’ve heard from the acclaimed indie country singer/songwriter, but it’s by no means a tonal departure from the trademark sound he established for himself in the 2014 classic Scissor Tail. Fell is at his most unguarded and exposed here, but the biting passion in his execution has arguably never burned as hot as it does in this four and a half minute jam.
The strings here frame the lyrics beautifully while imparting their own wave of emotionality to the audience, and though I initially felt like the mix was a little too loose for the arrangement at hand, repeat listens have made me realize why DocFell & Co. went with this formula over something a little tighter for “Fragile.” In order to capture the essence of their aesthetical integrity, I think it was smart to keep the production quality a bit unpolished in comparison to some of their previous cuts – namely the slick Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma – as a means of reestablishing their versatility with longtime fans (and showing new listeners how flexible they can be at the same time).
I love the raw nature of the guitar parts in this song, and to some degree, I don’t know that “Fragile” would be as formidable a listen as it is were they not produced with as edgy a finish as they ultimately were in this instance. DocFell & Co. wear the aggressive look of an old school Sooner bar band better than most anyone else in their scene does, and if I were in Fell’s position, I would utilize the grittiness of this latest release as much as possible when hitting the studio to record another LP.
While I’ve been a fan of DocFell & Co. for a few years now, I think now might be the best time to for newcomers to get into their sound. “Fragile” sees Fell embracing the most diverse compositional angles of his career in the recording studio thus far, and though I don’t regard this song as a rebellious statement piece against the Nashville establishment, it definitely has an indie feel that mainstream acts just can’t capture nowadays. I love where this act is going and I’d recommend this new single to anyone who digs smart modern country at its most anti-commercial in tone.