Heartland, the latest album from the Phillip Fox Band, shares both a title and a blue-collar sensibility with the Midwest.

Heartland, the latest album from the Phillip Fox Band, shares both a title and a blue-collar sensibility with the Midwest.

Songs dwell on the callouses developed living the workaday grind — “I survived the 40-hour life,” frontman Fox offers succinctly on one tune — and the various forces that exert a heavy toll as we push through from one day to the next.

On “We All Lose Somethin’,” a swinging number far jauntier than its title might suggest, Fox wrestles with the idea that nothing is forever. “Cancer Cannot,” a tender tune inspired by his wife’s 2007 bout with thyroid cancer, in turn, posits some things can be everlasting.

“Cancer cannot … silence courage, shatter hope, corrode your faith,” he sings. “It cannot cripple love.”

In spite of these obstacles, the music on Heartland never slumps its shoulders, and Fox and Co. carry these burdens with resolve, grace and unflagging optimism. “[Loss] can devastate you or it can free a man,” Fox sings on one song, and it’s clear throughout which path the crew has chosen.

“My dad worked for the auto companies, my granddad was a welder and his dad was an electrician,” said Fox, who joins his bandmates for the Heartland release show at Skully’s Music-Diner on Friday, Sept. 5. “That’s generations of that [attitude] where you get up early, you go to work, you come home and take care of the house, and then you go to bed and do it again. And that’s life.”

Musically, the group’s sound could have been similarly forged in Fox’s Detroit hometown, sharing an unfussy veneer with Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band and its ilk, as well as Southern rockers like the Allman Brothers Band.

“As I grew up and found the sounds that were comfortable to me, they were generally not metropolitan,” said Fox, who first picked up a guitar at 12 years old when a truck-driving neighbor’s grandson taught him to play Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” “[The music] feels timeless because of that. You can listen to an Allman Brothers album and be like, ‘Damn, that’s just good music. And it probably will be a hundred years from now.”

At times, the frontman must’ve felt like the creative process for Heartland would last nearly as long. A number of the tunes here date back a ways (“We All Lose Somethin’,” for one, opens with a mention of Hurricane Katrina), and even the newest songs have been part of the group’s set list going back two years — or roughly the point the band settled on its current lineup.

Because of this, many of the tunes sound suitably broken-in, a relaxed, weathered feel reflective of the group’s take-us-as-we-are roots.

“I didn’t want to be playing a part with the Phillip Fox Band,” Fox said. “I wanted it to be as authentic as possible, and I didn’t want to create some image that didn’t feel comfortable.”

Photo by Maddie McGarvey