Simply calling Canadian expat Colin Linden a roots artist is technically true, but, like pigeonholing Emmylou Harris as just another country singer, sells his substantial talents short. The singer/songwriter and guitarist is well known in his home country through a steady stream of solo projects (this is his tenth not counting a compilation) since 1987, as a prolific sideman and producer and for his occasional work as one third of Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, but less so in the States, where he resided in 2009 when this album was released. Like the music of the Band, a group that has strongly influenced his sound, this is a diverse affair. Linden's expressive and homespun voice is also eerily similar to a combination of the Band's Richard Manuel and Rick Danko. Those familiar with Linden's previous discs will find this a more subdued but no less moving set. It's dedicated to his late longtime friend and accompanist, keyboardist Richard Bell, who also co-wrote one of the songs. From the acoustic country-folk of the opening title track to the retro, Presley-styled bluesy swagger of "Trouble Only Comes in 3's" and the '60s slow prom dance of "John Lennon in New Orleans," Linden shifts his approach but maintains a grounded, earthy vibe that glides from hypnotic to entrancing. He brings in the Memphis Horns, who blow sweet on the R&B-infused yet laid-back "Between the Darkness and the Light of Day." Another veteran cohort, John Whynot, is also aboard as engineer, and the often languid groove created by hanging out with old friends gives the session a warm, comfy, inviting vibe. That's true even when he's rocking out on "The Price You Pay," the toughest moment here. Three of these tunes have already been released in different arrangements on Paul Reddick's Sugarbird album that Linden produced, co-wrote, and considers a companion piece to this. Linden has never shied away from his spiritual leanings, but even on material such as "The Heaven Me," one of a few tributes to Richard Bell, and "I Have Seen a Miracle," his lyrics are never overbearing and the accompanying music throbs with soulful bluesy power. Even on the cautionary "Later Than You Think" and closing gospel-folk of "God Will Always Remember Your Prayer," Linden's most directly spiritual composition, his rustic voice and immaculate picking keep the track lively and grounded. Beautifully produced (by Linden) and recorded, From the Water is another in a series of Colin Linden albums that show he's as talented an artist in his own right as he is a producer and sideman for dozens of others. Existing fans will be delighted with this classy and emotionally affecting collection and newcomers can start here before working their way back through his thick and impressive catalog.
AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz