Published Sep 25, 2015Don't accuse Colin Linden of tardiness for taking so long to release a new solo album. Rich In Love is his first since 2009's From The Water, but he hasn't exactly been idle: there's his ongoing work with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and his status as both an in-demand record producer (Colin James, Bruce Cockburn and plenty of U.S. roots acts) and a sideman ace guitarist for the likes of Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris and Robert Plant, not to mention his extensive on and off-screen musical contributions to the hit series Nashville.
His ascension to roots-rock royalty has been a long and hard-earned one, and Rich In Love neatly showcases his skills as multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and producer. Linden's first love, the blues, is a key component here, but he integrates country, folk and rock'n'roll elements seamlessly. The sound is kept pretty sparse, built around his guitar, ukulele and mandolin playing and the Blackie rhythm section of bassist John Dymond and drummer Gary Craig (aka the Rotting Matadors). Keyboardists Reese Wynans (Stevie Ray Vaughan) and Tim Lauer add texture on piano and organ, Amy Helm contributes harmony vocals on three cuts and blues great Charlie Musselwhite adds harp on a couple.
Co-writers here include Linden's wife Janice Powers, Dymond and American notables Gary Nicholson and Tom Hambridge, which contributes to the stylistic diversity. Some of the songwriting is a touch uneven, as on the slightly hackneyed "No More Cheap Wine," but the hit to miss ratio is high. "The Hurt" is a stone-cold killer six-minute epic about lies and betrayal that references Etta James and the Sonny Liston versus Muhammad Ali fight (sample lyric: "I wanna see you hurt before I believe a word"). Fuelled by fluent harp and slide guitar, it's a knockout.
The playing throughout is, of course, impeccable, and the album confirms Linden's evolution as a gritty-voiced and convincing vocalist, as shown by his tender delivery on "I Need Water" and "Everybody Ought to Be Loved." Rich in Love is a worthy addition to an already large and impressive discography. (Stony Plain)