Richly rewarding album from a songwriting master craftsman.
What is it that lets you know you are in the presence of someone who is a master of their craft? There is a certain apparent effortlessness that can only have come from combining aptitude, and a deep understanding of what they aim to achieve…and this is then coupled with years of honing their skills through practice. And when they have arrived at a certain point in time, everything unites and the result is a simple expression of something near perfection.
Craig Cardiff is a Canadian songwriter, who has released an incredible tally of 25 albums and EPs since 1997. In 2012 he was nominated for a prestigious Juno award for his album “Floods and Fire”.
“All This Way Running” is his latest release, and perhaps it is notable that after being so prolific, this is his first release in six years. It has clearly been time well spent, and he himself describes the record as being “the biggest thing I’ve ever done”. Yet, it is completely without bombast. Cardiff is possessing of a warm, unassuming voice, and he uses this to quietly welcome you into his world, rather than shouting to get your attention.
His songs are beautifully crafted, lyrics that gradually reveal their depth, melodies that insinuate themselves into your brain after a few listens, rhythms that are infectious yet unobtrusive, until finishing the record just leaves you wanting to start again immediately.
Instrumentation is also used with acute subtlety. Acoustic instruments prevail…banjos, fiddles, acoustic guitars, while softly brushed drums drive these songs along. It is almost a surprise when you suddenly notice there are barely any slow songs on the record.
It’s genuinely hard to pick out highlights, on a record that has no weak moments. The title track is a gorgeous, hook-filled tune with delicate words of reassurance in difficult times…yet, that description could equally fit most of the songs that follow. ‘Emm and May’ is a touching look at a relationship that opens other people’s eyes…but it is also supremely catchy. The yearning ‘Wyoming’ does change the pace, and is achingly beautiful. ‘The American’ steps slightly into classic Counting Crows territory. ‘Fire Fire Fire’ introduces a female vocal to provide stunning harmonies throughout.
This is music that works well on headphones, when you can close your eyes and let its warmth and subtle layers weave their magic. It is a record that deserves to be heard, and with any justice, it will be winning accolades everywhere. Ultimately, though, I suspect Cardiff does not make music for awards, but rather for the connections it can make with people, and the succour the music can offer – in which case, job done.