‘To Build A Fire’, Cam Penner(March 30, 2013)
Hearing this album takes you wherever your imagination will roam - Captain Beefheart experimenting with folk, David Crosby unleashed, Woody Guthrie reincarnated. Then again, there’s little to compare with Cam Penner. Forged by experiences at the tough end of life only encountered by few, perversely independent in his approach, unafraid to wander, this man invites you to come with him on another voyage through his musical world.
With his album ‘To Build A Fire’, Cam Penner takes yet another sideways look at life and once more refuses to accept its vagaries contesting it instead with a clarity few can match. These songs are unrefined and challenging, full strength and hardcore, demanding something from the listener in return for exposure to a new happening. Banjos, guitars and ukuleles spar with kick drums and stamped-on floorboards; voices writhe and slide around the lyrics and inscrutable melodies demand attention. There’s the spectral feel of ‘Mighty Damn Animator (So Long, Farewell)’ with haunting unexpected brass section leading towards the stomp and energy of ‘To Build A Fire’ and its earthy chant vocals, unusual structure and captivating beat, and the singular strings and howling vocals of ‘This Could Be Your Anthem’.
If you’re familiar with Cam Penner’s work you will know the distance he’s travelled to create the individuality of ‘To Build A Fire’ if not then open your mind and prepare to experience a different take on this world. From thegutsy guitar and raw-edged vocal appeal of ‘No Consequence’ through the folk-rap reality of ‘Memphis’ with its heavy message and intricate strings to the enthralling mystery of the multi-layered and starkly honest ‘Gasoline Summmers’.
When I encountered Cam’s previous albums ‘Gypsy Summer’ and ‘Trouble & Mercy’ they laid down more than a few signposts towards his rare worldview, ‘To Build A Fire’ takes you there and lets you wander unworn trails in the footsteps of a true pioneer.
Reviewer: Tim Carroll