It's easy to pass off Great Big Sea as a folk-rock band upon first listen. But dig a bit deeper, and you discover that there is more than meets the eye (or more fittingly, the ear) to this Canadian outfit, especially on their 2010 release Safe Upon the Shore. Their ninth full-length studio effort overall continues to touch upon the rootsy style/approach the group is primarily known for, but Great Big Sea is one of the few modern-day bands that also manages to incorporate New Orleans brass ("Don't Wanna Go Home"), sweeping vocal harmonies ("Long Life"), and even Celtic sounds ("Over the Hills") into their trademark style. The end result is a true sound from the heartland, which somehow doesn't come off dated at all -- thanks in part to an unmistakably modern production by Los Lobos' Steve Berlin. Also detected throughout are a vibrancy and energy that are simply intoxicating -- creating a downright jolly-good feel/party atmosphere, especially on such tracks as "Hit the Ground and Run" and "Wandering Ways." And there are even a few tranquil moments, such as "Yankee Sailor" and "Follow Me Back," as well as a reading of the traditional tune "Gallows Pole" (which rock fans will be familiar with due to Led Zeppelin's version back on Led Zeppelin III). As evidenced throughout Safe Upon the Shore, "roots rock" does not always have to focus around vintage electric guitars and cowboy hats -- Great Big Sea has created a pure "heartland sound" all its own.
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AllMusic Review by Greg Prato