Long based in Nashville, Colin Linden is recognised as a true renaissance man of roots music and the blues. As well as his solo recording career, he is a member of Canadian roots supergroup Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (alongside Tom Wilson and Stephen Fearing) and an in-demand guitarist, producer, and music director for other artists.

As a singer/guitarist, he’s accompanied everyone from Bruce Cockburn (as his producer and touring musician) to Bob Dylan, Greg Allman, Rihannon Giddens, Pistol Annies, John Prine and many more.

The stats on his career are quite staggering: he has played on over 500 albums and produced 140, earning his first Grammy last year for producing Keb Mo’s Oklahoma, winner for Best Americana Album. He has also nabbed 25 Juno Award nominations and collected nine wins. Along the way, over 40 years, he has released 14 solo albums, bLOW being the latest. He’s the first outside artist on longtime comrade Lucinda Williams’ Highway 20 label, just one more sign of the huge peer respect he enjoys.

His musical canvas has long been a broad one, but it is the blues that takes centrestage on bLOW, an album comprising Linden originals. Six of these 11 songs grew out of instrumental compositions he created for a TV show that Linden then added lyrics too. The invigorating title track features both lyrical and B3 contributions from his wife, noted author Janice Powers.

Organ is featured on a number of other cuts too, along with harmonica, adding depth to the sound. Linden uses two rhythm sections on the record, one comprising longtime collaborators John Dymond and Gary Craig (Bruce Cockburn, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings) and the other Dave Jaques (John Prine) and Paul Griffith.

The album showcases Linden’s signature skills as a fluent and flexible guitarist and a now formidable vocalist. His talent as an axeman was apparent right from his teenage days playing the Toronto club circuit, while the passage of decades has added real resonance to his gritty voice.

There’s a dirty edge to his playing on such cuts as “4 Cars” and “Houston,” a tinge of Bo Diddley in the sound on “Right Shoe Wrong Foot,” and an authentic boogie groove on “Boogie Let Me Be,” while the title track places his licks amidst card sharks and preachers. 

Linden digs deep on the 7 minute long ballad “Change Don’t Come Without Pain” and another soulful mini-epic, “When I Get To Galilee,” two highlight cuts on an album devoid of lowlights.

bLOW closes out on a note of optimism in a troubled time with “Honey On My Tongue” – “beyond this moment there’s a song waiting to be sung, with a sound so sweet as honey on my tongue.” A lovely finale to another strong collection from a national musical treasure. (Kerry Doole)