Chris Coole, “The Road to the River”

(Penguin Eggs, Nov 2018)

In the world of magic there are the big stage illusions—cutting a person in half, making an elephant disappear—and there is table magic—cards, coins, cups and balls. The two are both thought of equally as magic, but they are of such different orders as to be different undertakings entirely. To the connoisseur, the close work takes the day—it’s smaller, more intimate, requires a greater facility, and is often more meaningful.

This latest release from Chris Coole is an example of the table magic of the musical world: seemingly limited resources are manipulated to reveal an impossible range of emotion. It requires close attention, and it rewards that attention. Not everything here is new. Most of the material has been released prior, with a number of tracks recorded for this project in particular. The reason is because it’s a fundraiser for the Elk River Alliance, which is great of course. But even if you know these tunes, the project nevertheless feels new. The various pieces speak to each other, and sit comfortably within a new frame.

Coole is an avid fly-fisher, and it seems some of the other musicians that are featured here are too, including Arnie Naiman and, if new to it, fiddler John Showman. The project is a testament to his passion for fishing. Coole brings the full range of experience to the material, from the contemplation of “Rainbow on the Moormons”—the bowed bass there is a study in doing a lot with little—to the humour of “Hell to Pay,” a children’s tune for the child in all of us. Throughout, it’s a window onto worlds that we don’t see every day—clawhammer banjo and fly fishing—though it will make you wish you could.


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