Bob Lien – Color of Sky
The thoughtful folk-fueled musings spread out over fifteen songs on Bob Lien’s Color of Sky album are largely elevated by their classical affectations alone. If the album were shorn of these stylistic traits, listeners would be left with a lean, if not spartan, folk rock album with little tinsel to set it apart. Make no mistake, however, that Lien isn’t a songwriter of serious talent. He has a strong ear for what makes a memorable melody and his lyrical inventions never fail to impress with their literary quality and appropriate touch. The production does an excellent job of contending with these often incongruous elements thanks to its keen ear for balance and the intimacy it underlines in Lien’s material. The ten songs included on Color of Sky are stellar examples of what can happen when skill, fundamentals, and imagination meet together.
Lien opens his album on a graceful note with the gently mounting title track. He, more often than not, adopts a policy of accumulation when writing songs and constructing arrangements. Individual elements are presented and build on each other until the material reaches a fully orchestrated sonic peak. Bringing classical parts like cello and piano together with his warmly assertive folk rock attributes gives songs like the title cut an effortless lift. He proves to be equally capable, however, of downshifting into a much more reflective posture. “What I Ask To Receive” has much of the same sweetly patient build distinguishing so much of his approach, but there’s even greater care and delicacy exercised here than before. “Open Up The Windows” has one of the most positive messages listeners will likely encounter on Color of Sky, but like the rest of Bob Lien’s writing, there are no easy answers promised in his songwriting. This is entertaining and musically satisfying material, but songs like this and others go a step further than similar songwriters thanks to his deceptively complex and eminently adult treatment of serious themes.
“Temporary Homes” highlights his ability to bring together different textural thrusts into unique sympathy while “Best of Who We Are” turns away from that towards a slice of pure orchestral driven folk pop. Lien’s voice might initially strike listeners as unfortunately limited, but it is soon apparent that he possesses the low key ability to tailor his voice in a variety of ways. “Weight of Fallen Dreams” illustrates that final point well with its acapella opening and Lien’s willingness to sing with double-tracked, yet sweetly modulated, vocals. He will surprise many listeners with the album’s lone turn towards a smattering of hard rock theatrics, “Lay Your Head Down”, but Lien blends together a convincing stew of sounds that can’t be confined to merely one style. The churning acoustic guitar based arrangement of “Taking the Long Way Home” benefits from some hard hitting drumming, but there’s a clear edge of yearning in his voice that takes the song to a whole new place. Bob Lien’s aim with Color of Sky sounds like he’s wanted to do much of the same – transport listeners away for a journey through his life. The release is quite successful in that regard and so many more.
9 out of 10 stars.
William Elgin III