Tuesday, June 28, 2011


The Sam Roberts Band headlines the 3rd annual Fred Rock Fest, happening August 13th in Fredericton. The popular outdoor event runs the whole day, and has an impressive lineup of national and East Coast stars. Joined Roberts and Co. on the stage will be hip-hop favourite Classified, the ever-exciting Joel Plaskett Emergency, and rising star Carmen Townsend, all three from Nova Scotia. Plaskett's not doing a whole lot of dates right now as he gears up for a new album and major tour this fall, so there's more anticipation than usual for his appearance. Carmen Townsend is on a roll, and climbing with each appearance. She turned a lot of heads opening up for Heart on a big national tour this spring, and the more people get to see her loud and rocking with her band, the more this guitar hero impresses. Joining them all is the golden-voiced Serena Ryder, appearing this time with The Beauties. Ryder sings like no other, plus knows how to rock the show, so there isn't a weak link in this lineup, from start to finish you have to be there for each set.

Sam Roberts Band is touring on the back of a new album, called Collider. As usual, Roberts takes a bunch of grooves, and builds them up into an intensity that sneaks up and makes you feel great. The songs often take off from the pulse of acoustic guitar, strumming vehicles for Roberts' tales. He's a foot soldier on the front lines of love, fighting and inevitibly loosing the battle, but maybe not the war. The musical drama builds with the personal ones, and hats off to this hard-working bunch, they make great-sounding productions. There are always great choices for the sound of the guitars, and the extra instruments and touches placed in the mix. Roberts' songs are always built up with layers of guitars, vocals, synths, even some excellent horns and woodwinds here. I wouldn't call it atmospheric, like a Daniel Lanois production, but there is almost always a secondary layer of sweet sound going on behind the main theme and melody, whether its the cymbal splash or answering echoes of vocals, the songs are aural treats.

Then there's the Roberts beat; his songs always seem to lope along, as toe-tappers, or head-bobbers, never fast ,never too slow, always catching your attention. It has a mellow feeling that doesn't say party, although it does say feel good, friends. Instead of punching your fist in the air, it makes you want to hug your neighbour and sway along. Ya, this kind of happy-mellow groove, not dissimilar to Crowded House. That, along with the trick of building the intensity on each song results in a positive, sonically triumphant disc, ending in the brilliant, near epic Tractor Beam Blues, the loudest and most celebretory song on the disc. It's a keeper.

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