Reviews:: Cam Penner Gypsy Summer

In the digital age, it’s almost impossible for an artist to slip through the cracks if you pay attention. Endless retweets and self-congratulating humble brags, facebook events mailed to distribution lists and emails that flood your inbox become suffocating. Thankfully, their are still a few surprises left in this big world. A few weeks ago, I logged in and realized Cam Penner had a new record ready for the masses.


Starkly contrasting the stripped down Trouble & Mercy, Gypsy Summer finds Penner experimenting with bolder sounds and much bigger arrangements. In the past, the soft acoustic picks and plucks eased the listener into the painful emotions and weary optimism, but now a full band of strings, bass, keys, drums and electric guitar leads all cushion the brutal honesty for which Cam is known.


The successful fusion of textures and lyricism on the opening number, “Driftwood”, is the strongest offering on the record and a perfect introduction to his new sound. Drums, electric, harmonica and understated steel all float along, and Penner rides the wave singing with an unfaltering optimism, even as the world tries to break him.

It’s gonna get worse, but it’s gets better.

Make no mistake, Gypsy Summer still feels like a Penner record. His gruff voice still oozes more emotion than you’d think possible and the simple, straight forward lyrics (follow you heart wherever it leads, I will follow my heart until it bleeds) are still gripping, but there are moments that will shock and amaze even the most devoted Cam fan. “My Lover & I” explodes out of the speakers with a pseudo-funk groove and the drum heavy intro to “Throw Your Hands Up” is so surprising, it’s reminiscent of the first time I heard “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”, but Cam understands these bigger sounds well.


Penner still plays to his strengths; every tale is a relatable, personal stories delivered from the perspective of characters we want to know so when he adds steel and harmonies to the beautiful “Flesh & Bone”, the noisy fuzz to “Gypsy Woman” or strings and electric guitar to the inspirational “Hey My My My”, you aren’t overwhelmed by the new textures, you simply sink into the backdrops. The symphony of strings that frames the classic Penner lyricism of “Hour of Need” showcase the tasteful evolution of his sound, but the change seems completely natural and essential to his growth as a musician. Gypsy Summer might not be the record you were expecting, but it’s a must-hear.

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MP3:: Cam Penner - Driftwood WEB::




This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 at 9:01 am and is filed under Cam Penner, Canada, Music, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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