Bob Lien – Color of Sky 


Color of Sky is very much in the Americana tradition, but it reaches ambitiously beyond that for a synthesis of dreamy folk music coupled with vibrant string arrangements. The collision of styles creates truly imaginative musical fireworks but there isn’t a single component in any track keyed to overwhelm listeners. This tastefulness extending over the course of Color of Sky’s ten songs never wavers and is part and parcel of high level artistry reaching far beyond the purview of typical recordings in the folk song idiom. The production job courtesy of Cyrus Rhodes does a remarkable job of bringing all of these parts into seamless interplay with each other – nothing sounds disjointed or out of place and, instead, there is a consistency of sound and approach that complements the material and Lien’s bell-clear vocals. 

Those bell-clear vocals get the album off to a powerful start with its title track. There isn’t anything overtly ambitious immediately apparent. Instead, the song discreetly reaches for high peaks. The gradual blending of Lien’s voice, acoustic guitar, and the lush string section sweeps listeners up, but never dramatic. It’s a staggered uplift with smooth textures that never challenge listeners but, instead, engages them with a warm and melodically varied approach. The contemplative grace of a song like “What I Ask To Receive” is ideal material for Lien’s voice, but its melodic virtues do much to set it apart from the remaining songs. Much of the same meditative grace sustains “Open Up the Windows”, but there’s a wider emotional view here that takes in much more thematic territory than the preceding material. The beautiful upper register vocal musings of “Should I Listen?” help raise the bar a little higher for the excellence of material on Color of Sky. Lien has the unique talent for invoking deeply sensitive musical and emotional landscapes without ever lapsing into sentimentality.  

The deceptively elaborate orchestrations behind “Yesterday Came Too Late” have the faint hints of light psychedelia helping to distinguish the song from its surrounding material. Lien fills this evocative space with an equally evocative vocal that never strains for effect. One of the album’s more surprising moments comes with the track “Lay Your Head Down” thanks to its startling merger of crashing distorted guitars, Middle Eastern flavored flourishes, and straight forward folk rock rhythm section work. Color of Sky’s one moment of unadulterated pop magic comes with “Til You Kissed Me” and it’s all the more remarkable thanks to its steady refusal to plunge into overwrought sentimentality. Bob Lien juggles a lot of balls on Color of Sky and never drops one. His impressive stylistic dexterity never strikes a false note and delivers emotionally and musically satisfying material that has an impressive overarching completeness. He covers a wide variety of entertainment bases as well without ever milking those moments for melodrama while still delving deep into human experience with a minimum amount of fuss.  

9 out of 10 stars. 

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Charles Hatton

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