Love At the End of the World

For a country that is often viewed (unfairly) as the little sibling of the United States, Canada has produced a treasure trove of rock and roll to rival big bro. Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Rush, Bryan Adams, Alanis Morisette, and Nickelback, to name a few, have ridden the top of U.S. pop charts. But for every Canadian who has made it south of the border there are a dozen who have struggled to crack the conscience of American media outlets.

Sam Roberts is one of those musicians who has gained fame at home but has yet to reach a large American audience. That’s a shame, especially if you’re in search of straight- up rock and roll, because Mr. Roberts is the real honest to goodness deal. With two platinum albums to his name in Canada, Roberts and his band should be positioned to win acclaim in the U.S. on the merits of their 3rd release, Love At the End of the World.

Sam Roberts’ songs find their roots in what might be called “heritage” rock with a strong emphasis on melody and harmony and a minimum of studio production. The band structure is standard rock and roll – guitars, bass, and, percussion with a smattering of keyboard, mandolin and harmonica. As in the music of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, Roberts’ music also reveals folk elements in his arrangements and instrumentation, particularly on the pretty “Words & Fire” with its chiming mandolin finale. “Them Kids,” jangles happily along while lamenting a generation’s disconnect to rock and roll.

As on his earlier released, Roberts exhibits a flare for geographic imagery. Africa (his parents are originally from South Africa) is featured prominently on “Lions of the Kalahari” and Mount Kilimanjaro rises up on the ominous title track. Mostly, Love At the End of the World is a frolicking affair with infectious tunes, lots and lots of guitar jam-outs and easily discernable lyrics. In other words, it’s the type of rock record that was readily released in the ‘60s and ‘70’s when rock music ruled the airwaves.

The album’s closer “Detroit ‘67” contemplates the musician’s anxieties about the fickle nature of his profession. The existential question – can I continue to make music in the face of needing to make money? – is one that Sam Roberts is well acquainted with. I doubt that Roberts will break the top 50 but his latest effort should expand his cult fan base in the States.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host)