Faced with the loss of friends and a bunch of sadness to deal with, Skydiggers Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson started working on an album about the stages of grief. But then they flipped that on its head, instead coming up with this life-affirming collection. Friendship is the theme, how to nurture and cherish it, and it is offered up as one of the few truly important treasures with which we can be blessed.
And with that, the pair came up with this set of moving and warm songs, all of which uplift and bless the listener. Maize, with his slightly gruff and always charming voice, sounds absolutely sincere as he pays tribute to tremendous relationships. It's not maudlin or overtly personal, they don't name names, but you know how important these people are. "Five Cold Canadians" is what the band drinks, a brothers-and-sisters in arms song, the message being it was the best of times. "Always and Forever" is one of those songs that started as grief, but has become a monumental outpouring: "I will love you, always and forever." The group takes a moment to groove as well, on the funky "Questions Of Love," that sees the subject "back on your feet, problems all behind you... you can face the world once more." The shortish (under 30 minutes) but emotionally packed collection ends with a cover of a Sinatra standard "It Was A Very Good Year," Maize proving himself a capable crooner and moody trumpet player as well.
The album is intimate throughout, made of echo and close-up instruments, spare but full. There are just four musicians here, Finlayson and Maize along with drummer Peter von Althen and band multi-instrumentalist Aaron Comeau. There are layers of sounds, but all there for a purpose, to help with the mood, rather than following a fad. If an album ever could be described as a close friend, this is it.