Better known as a roots/blues producer/sideman for Sue Foley, Janiva Magness, the Band, Bruce Cockburn, and Lucinda Williams than for his work as part of Blackie & the Rodeo Kings or a handful of stylish solo albums, Colin Linden seems -- at least on the surface -- to function most effectively as a supporting player. But judging by the few discs under his own name, he deserves recognition as a talented artist, often as impressive as those he works with. That's the case with Southern Jumbo, an impressive set that illustrates Linden's soulful bluesy Americana. If that sounds like it also describes Canadian musical soulmates the Band and Blue Rodeo, both of whom he has worked with, it comes as little surprise that those acts are a helpful reference point for Linden's similar approach. In fact, this album's "Train Left an Hour Ago" could easily be mistaken for a Band outtake. Recorded in Memphis, Toronto, and Nashville, Southern Jumbo successfully meshes a roots rocking Canadian sound with soulful Southern grit. Linden's dusky voice -- somewhat like the Band's Richard Manuel -- perfectly frames his songs, many of which concern death, dying, and an acknowledgement of mortality. But the project is far from a downer, and several songs like the frisky deep Delta blues of "Dog Catcher," the peppy, horn-enhanced "I Give Up," and the retro R&B of "Bucket of Soul" show Linden's lighter side. Contributions from the incomparable Memphis Horns and veteran keyboardist Richard Bell help the sound enormously, injecting a bluesy sensibility to everything they touch. Not surprisingly, Linden's classy production brings a breezy, open soundscape to capture these tunes. His own acoustic and electric guitar lines weave through the songs, importing a swampy, bluesy texture and making tracks such as the touching "This Is Me" vibrant, supple, and elegant. A gifted artist who deserves as much attention as those he produces and backs up, Colin Linden combines the various sides of his personalities on the impressive Southern Jumbo.
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AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz