Joel Kroeker Closer To the Flame

Kroeker is leading something of a creative double life. The BC singer is in demand as a songwriter and frequently collaborates with other writers for their projects. The fact that he’s had songs cut by artists as diverse as Patricia O’Callaghan, Pavlo and Quebec stars Dany Bedar (their hit collaboration, "Déjà Vu,” is a bonus track here) and Jonas testifies to his stylistic versatility. For his own albums, he insists on going it alone, getting more introspective lyrically. Closer To The Flame, his second disc, is an interesting hybrid of an accessible and melodic rock-oriented approach ("Against Myself”) and more orthodox singer-songwriter fare ("The Good Stuff” and "Guide Me Home”). It seems inexcusable that opening cut "Against Myself” hasn’t been a serious rock radio hit, given its catchiness and full-blooded guitar riffery. The presence of three guitarists (Kroeker, Craig McCaul and fret wizard Kevin Breit) and female backing vocalists beef up the sound, and producer Danny Greenspoon (Great Big Sea) balances the components nicely. Kroeker has an attractive and openhearted vocal style but occasionally his penchant for spiritual and elemental metaphors gets excessive. Angels appear in four songs, broken hearts in three and there are enough howling winds, storms, hurricanes, thunder and dark skies to fill a weather channel report. It is still a disc worth investigating though. (True North)