artful, intelligent pop with introspective themes

The Boat Ashore (Innocent Media)
Michael Roe

By Robert Gruber

If Mike Roe wanted to turn the Yellow Pages into a rock opera, you can be sure I would be the first (but probably not the only) in line to buy it. An awe-inspiring singer/songwriter and guitarist, Roe's work with his band the Seventy Sevens has drawn critical raves for years, making him a sizable cult legend in Christian rock circles (Phil Keaggy, no slouch himself on guitar, is a fan). The duality of Roe's nature is split between down 'n' dirty blues rock and atmospheric pop, which led to some rather uneven albums in the past. Lately, however, Roe has exercised his soft side on solo albums, and this has been some of his strongest work.

Like Richard Thompson and, to a lesser extent, Lindsey Buckingham, Roe has a captivatingly introspective, lovelorn side, as illustrated on The Boat Ashore.Collaborating with Sevens bandmate Bruce Spencer, Roe creates a lush bed of acoustic and electric guitar and mandolin, with solos that recall the styles of Jeff Beck and Jerry Garcia. It plays well on a nice fall day, an album to take a drive in the country to.

Lyrically, Roe seems to be reconciling himself with the heartbreak and confusion that have fueled recent works. "Never should've made you my reason to live/'Cause it killed me baby when you walked out that door," he sings on "Love Like Gold." Clearly, Roe has been clinging more to the cross lately, examining his relationship with God: "I've got a debt I carry around, carry around like a weight/It don't relieve me to know that it's already paid" he sings on "I Buried My Heart At Bended Knee."

Musically, The Boat Ashore makes the most of dynamic high fidelity, without taxing your emotional state too much lyrically. Fans of artful, intelligent pop, along the lines of Seal or Sting, will find plenty to like here.