That spark. We all search for it, cradle it and with the gentlest exhales, try to help it grow. For most it’s true love, finding a perfect match for who we are. That feeling is better than any drug, but no matter how many movies, songs or books are written, it’s never described exactly right. That’s probably why they keep being written.
Cam Penner has seen the world from the bottom. He’s served food to those with nowhere left to go. He’s seen the unfortunate and the broken. He’s spent nights on couches and playing for small, uninterested crowds.
But he’s also screamed proudly from the summit. He’s found his love and now Cam’s been given a new blessing, a daughter that consumes and changed everything he knew. You feel that love as he sings of the world through his daughter’s eyes on “Curiousity”, a beautiful moment delivered with pics, strings and a father’s loving hand.
Cam is content. He lives on his own land, surrounded by forest, foothills and fresh air but the world outside of his borders is beyond his control. Governments are corrupt and the system is failing those that need help the most and as last week proved, society is ripping apart at the seams. As a parent, these are terrifying times.
A call to action is nothing new for folk artists (and Cam’s being singing for change for years), but now Cam has new motivation and urgency. He wrestles with the same questions all new parents do; should we stand and fight for what’s ours and what’s right, or retreat, and protect the things we now hold so dear.
That’s probably why To Build a Fire isn’t a comfortable listen. Penner’s sound has become bolder and more experimental over the last few years, and while the songs are still built from spare picks and Cam’s gravelly rasp, it’s the sonic relationship he’s developed with Jon Wood that really defines the record.
Wood helps Penner capture the love and hope in his heart and the uncertainty and rage of the fight going on around us. At times, To Build a Fire is beautiful (the steel on “Whiskey Lips” could bring a man to his knees), but it’s also twisted and tormented. His fire is warm enough to keep his family safe, but it just needs a drop of fuel to turn the spark into an inferno.