CD REVIEW: Color of Sky by Ben Lien

The consideration and care evident on Color of Sky proves Bob Lien’s commitment from the first song onward. It’s an easy confidence combined with his facility for songwriting, but there’s an added factor required to conjure magic. The artist needs to be able to invest the entirety of his or her passion into the work and lay it out for listeners with just the right mix of intensity and panache. His vocals carry off a lot of those qualities thanks to his appealing skill for varying his delivery as needed. Sometimes he embodies every particle of the focus found in the song’s lyrical and musical content, but he’s just as capable of charming listeners with his vocal sensitivity. The production does an exemplary job of bringing the bevy of disparate elements into accord with each other and helps make the listener experience a fully realized effort.

“Color of Sky”, the album’s title, provides an excellent introduction to the musical aesethtic governing much of the release. Bringing together classical elements, particularly strings, with the folkie soul of these songs works better than it has any right to – the melodic elements in each approach tremendously complement each other while sporting their own individual merit. “Every Road” has a sort of long-range moodiness. What that means is that the lyrical content is bogged down in the complications of the moment, but there’s a bigger picture emerging from the narrator that makes the material unusually mature and wise. “Every Road” has an unusual arrangement with its chiming piano notes falling in the spaces around a foundation of acoustic guitar. Lacing the song with occasional lead guitar licks further develops the atmospherics.

Piano dominates the beginning of “Open the Windows” and it sets up this narrative of emotional housecleaning with a light touch and enveloping lyricism. Drummer Bruce Burgess’ tasteful drumming is a bedrock part of why Color of Sky succeeds so well, but this is a full band performance and no one performer stands much higher than the rest. The template of opening songs with a spare beginning before segueing the band in continues with “Wasted Day”, another knowing but slightly embittered meditation on regret and grief. “Should I Listen?” is much more in a direct folk vein than many other songs on Color of Sky and there’s some faint bluesy touches sprinkled throughout the arrangement that adds to the song’s luster. “Lay Your Head Down” unleashes some hard hitting and surprising rock guitar theatrics, but it isn’t any single that the final half of Color of Sky will undergo an metamorphosis into pure guitar workout.

The assertive rhythms of the album’s penultimate track, “Taking the Long Way Home”, gives the song an urgency greater than anything else we’ve heard so far. There’s a survivor’s voice emerging from many of these songs, but it never risks sentimentality or poor taste. Instead, he offers us his heart in these songs and we can choose to accept it or push it away. Color of Sky is an album longing for your acceptance and it will earn it honestly.


by Lydia Hillenburg

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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