Bob Lien’s album Color of Sky is a fifteen song affair that extends itself enough to encompass a wide variety of voices. Much of the album has an unfettered Americana heart, but there’s a sharp artistic spin applied to these songs, particularly in its insistence on bringing classical inclinations together with Bob Lien’s folk music skill set. This isn’t unadorned folk music in the mold of an early Bob Dylan or others, but instead feels like a lighter take on Tom Petty mixed together with a much stronger melodic sense and a cinematic view of songwriting. Some listeners might balk at the album’s length, but self-indulgence is nonexistent – these songs lay out specific musical aims, keep them in sight, and ticks off their accomplishment one by one on each song. He likewise explores a rich emotional territory and never steers listeners into unbelievable narratives.
“Color of Sky” has many of the same reflective poetic qualities that will later mark many of the later tracks. Lien never lays on too much of that poetic flair, thereby drawing attention away from the musical main attraction, but Color of Sky wouldn’t be half the work it is without that element. The relaxed affability of “What I Ask to Receive” smooths over its decidedly adult message thereby making it even more palpable for widespread consumption. “Every Road” shares that same comforting mood while pushing a slightly darker lyric than heard on the earlier tracks. Like elsewhere, however, Lien tempers his literary effects and never pushes the melodramatic elements hard enough to matter. Instead, everything rings true and will undoubtedly affect many listeners positively. “Open Up the Windows” has a lighter air, but the messages don’t differ much. Lien, instead, chooses to push the song’s conciliatory mood and coming to terms with both the past and future.
“Should I Listen?” ushers in a section of the album when the songwriting takes a more sensitive turn. There’s obviously great care taken with the arrangements on each of these songs and this track is a particularly strong example of that mood at work. He takes a surprising detour into lightly psychedelic strained folk on the dreamy jaunt “Yesterday Came Too Late”. The lyrical content is particularly clever when compared to many of the album’s song. “Weight of Fallen Dreams” has an easy going, showy effect, but it never comes off as something too heavy or clumsy. Lien carries these shifts off without even a hint of insecurity and adeptly handles the changes. The album’s final surprise comes with the eclectic stew of musical elements heard on “Lay Your Head Down”, most clearly heard in the inclusion of loud, extremely aggressive guitar. These sorts of surprises make Color of Sky stand out in a way few albums of this stripe ever do. Lien never sounds out of place changing gears and there’s impressive coherence defining the work’s construction.
9 out of 10 stars.