Flying Canoe

Flying Canoe


Neil Bjorklund
P.O. Box 1947
Eugene, OR 97440

A review written by for The Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by R. A. B. Perch

Flying Canoe's self titled disc is not the sort of album you fall in love with after one listen -- at least, I didn't. At first, I liked a song or two, then with each new listen my fondness for the whole recording grew. The hints of world beat that flow through the songs, and Flying Canoe's use of whistles, bells, drums and other purcussion instruments had me tapping my feet and drumming my fingers. Of course, there are also guitars and electric basses, but it's this world flavour that distinguishes this album -- that and the harmony vocals, but I'll get to those a bit later. And so after a week of living with Flying Canoe, I was hooked.

The trio who make up Flying Canoe are Neil Bjouklund, Allison Rickenbaugh, and Bruce Newhouse. These three Oregon natives display superb musicianship on this CD, but what truly makes this album special are the intense harmonies they create. The three collaborate with an ability that is usually found only in family groups, such as The Rankin Family. The song that showcases this talent best is the a capella chant "To the Water." Though it may sound like a traditional song, it was written by Bjorklund, as were the rest of the pieces on the disc.

The twelve tracks on Flying Canoe deal with the theme of discovery, both spiritual and self. In each, the individual in the song is on a quest. A quick look at the song titles -Crossing Big Water," "Kenya Call," "Night Walk, and Traveller, for example- hint at this theme. Who's Talkin' In My Sleep starts off at a high school reunion, a returning to the past, but then expands into a song about the paths we take in life, and what we learn along the way. In Kenya Call Neil sings about a trip to Africa, and the reasons that brought him "8,000 miles" to Kenya. It is a song about confronting the truth, no matter how difficult that is to do. The issue of race is one of the truths Neil deals with: "Mine is the only white [face] -- something I had never known." Inside of Me is about the many things we try to run away from, suchas fear, the past, and the truth, and how impossible this is to do. Rickenbaugh takes the lead vocal on "Rocks and Razors," an emotional song about a 'lady's man' who's headed for a fall when he discovers that "traffic goes both ways" on this street.

This CD also has its quiet songs. In My Champion Neil sings movingly about his grandmother whose ideas inspired him through diffilcut times. No Matter What You Do is a beautiful love song that seems destined to become a favourite for weddings. Night Walk is a haunting ballad about trying to findyour way "like an arrow in the dark." Neil has a poet's talent when it comes to songwriting, creating images that linger long after the music ends.

Bjorklund's production is clean with an "unplugged" feeling that suits thisgroup well. It is apparent from the first listen, though, that Rickenbaugh's and Newhouse's musical talents are integral to the project. Without them this CD would lack the world music flavours that help make it the impressive first release it is.

Flying Canoe is a self-contained musical adventure perfect for both the world explorer and armchair traveler. It is the right soundtrack for all your journeys.

Song List:

  • The Longing
  • Rocks and Razors
  • Who's Talkin' In My Sleep?
  • My Champion
  • Crossing Big Water
  • Kenya Call
  • To The Water
  • Father of Grief
  • Inside of Me
  • No Matter What You Do
  • Night Walk
  • Traveller

Edited by Kerry Dexter

Copyright 1998, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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