The first thing that caught my attention wasn't Cam Penner's oft gently impinging vocals or his acumen on guitars, keyboards, and percussion, but that cloud-high melancholic harmonica drifting in so wistfully through the lead moments of the first cut, Driftwood. Man, that plain-out captured my soul! I pictured the high meadows of the Colorado Plateau, the sky-filled lonely places I've hiked and sat, contemplating Nature, day purpling into evening as everything settles into a pleasant slumber punctuated by troubling flicks and sparks of memory…wistfulness incarnate. Don't be deceived by my reference to mellifluity, though, as Penner writes penetrating lyrics that bore through your chest, making the breath quicken, memory contemplating the import of his poetry. And, hey, all of that's only the first track.
The second cut, Gypsy Women, is just as beautiful, equally laconic, paced alike, and shot through with echoing chords atop a leisurely drum line, everything slowly building to an emphasis showing that the composer can fierce-up when he feels like it…which is proper indeed, as there's a quite decent degree of the projective in his work, even when it's not always so evident. The written content, however, isn't the sole focus of his craft as such tends to be with so many folkers, because Penner pays a hell of a lot of attention to the instruments' side, the compositions, and arrangements (look especially to a masterful restraint of the strings against the insistent front counterpoint in Hour of Need), the bedding in which his philosophizing lays down. This careful trait shows even in the spare ballads like Cool Cool Night, a perfect cross between Kris Kristofferson and Bruce Cockburn.
The propulsive My Lover & I, my fave track, gets right under the skin, lyrically and musically, and those marvelous strings sneak in again (Penner, it becomes apparent, views such things the way John Entwhistle looked at horns, not as blaring intrusions but crafted atmosphere and color). More than once, though, I was also reminded of John Kongos, who penned the killer Tokoloshe Man and also managed to be as unorthodox as Penner within normal parameters (catch Throw Your Hands Up"here). Then there's the dreamy symphonic Driftwood Reprise that I wish to hell Cam would've carried out for three hours and…well, now I'm all cozy and blissful, ready for Mr. Moon and the calming stars, so excuse me, if you will, as I pour a glass of wine and fade into the night.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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