Welcome to something totally different.
When I checked out Bob Lanois on www.myspace.com his page tagged his music as psychedlic/experimental/roots. OK, now right off the bat I was intrigued. That's a pretty wide range of styles to bring together effectively, and I wanted to see how he managed it, especially since Lanois' instrument of choice is the harmonica.
Now I know folk artists love the harmonica, it is an ideal instrument for a wandering minstrel because of its size, coupled with its ability to bring out varied emotions. But, psychedelic is a whole 'nother fish as they say.
After listening to Snake Road, I get the roots underpinnings, and the experimental is obvious, at times you feel like Lanois borrowed an oft-used jazz technique and just let the music take him where it desired to go, although I do believe it was likely more structured than that. The psychedelic is far less obvious to me, and may simply be the artist's interpretation of his own music, although I'll give you that it hints at it in a few cuts like Spaceshack.
Regardless of what tag you put on Snake Road, this is an amazing recording. I have long loved the harmonica, maybe because I can recall sitting on the arm of my grandfather's easy chair listening to him play the few tunes he knew on the instrument. I still own the chair, but sadly never learned how to play.
The love grew as I found blues music, which is often at its best when carried by the sound of a harmonica.
However, what Lanois does here blows me away. He takes the harmonica to a whole new level for me. This guy has an amazing style and stellar technique, producing music here beyond what most would associate with the harmonica. Believe me, this is one you want to find simply because it will open your eyes to what the simple harmonica can actually do musically in the hands of an obvious master.
This is truly one of the finest musical treats I have reviewed in 2007.
You can check out Lanois' fine work at www.boblanois.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec. 26, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada