Bob Lien – Color of Sky
Bringing together the spartan folk rock typically associated with Midwestern and eastern based acts with the much more experimental approaches of West Coast artists results in a real winner for Bob Lien. His fifteen song opus Color of Sky does an unforgettable job of synthesizing various styles while remaining on point throughout. Some people might have a knee-jerk reaction to the album’s length, but closer inspection reveals that the songs themselves justify the album’s duration. Moreover, there’s a real sense here that Lien is, in a sense, clearing the decks for perhaps a more modest, but equally bright, future. Color of Sky plays like the work of a man with something to get off his chest. There is no three a.m. dark night of the soul songs here, but he presents an unvarnished view of himself and his experiences filtered through grandly cinematic and imaginative musical confections.
The title track opens things with a pleasing poetic touch. It isn’t particularly common for any artist, regardless of genre, to open their album with its title track. Nominally, such songs are considered “statements” and consigned to the last slot or else placed near the middle of a running order. Leading off with the title song implies the sort of confidence that experienced music devotees will find intriguing. He carries off the competing melodic concerns of the song with surefooted musical vision. “Every Road” and “Open Up the Windows” are studies in musical contrasts. They offer different slants on, essentially, the same musical experience while touching on those experiences from wildly differing moods. It has a slightly grayer, more melancholy atmosphere than its “sister” song, “Open Up the Windows”, but they are undoubtedly informed by the same experiences. The latter song takes less of a weathered view of survival and, instead, bubbles slightly with emotions of gratitude. There’s an air of instructiveness in the song that will capture some listeners attention as well.”Wasted Day”, however, goes to a darker place than “Every Road” ever dares, but there’s a qualification. No matter how much Lien ventures into the shade, the light never dims entirely in these songs – there’s always some sense of a way out, of some final survival or victory that’s never quite out of the narrator’s grasp. It lends a faint air of hope to even the more despairing material on Color of Sky.
“Weight of Fallen Dreams” probably represents the closest thing Color of Sky has to an outright down, but it does more to exhibit Lien’s dynamic range as a songwriter. This is a composer who knows who to create compelling moments simply from contrasting different musical moods in one piece and tracks like this gain infinitely from such nuance. “Lay Your Head Down” is another late album gem remarkable, if for no other reasons, than the fiery guitar that makes its first appearance on Color of Sky. It’s just a fine sign that Lien, like all great artists, is home on a stairway of surprise and will never allow his muse to be constrained. Based on albums like Color of Sky, we are all the better for it.
9 out of 10 stars.