347. The Boat Ashore – Michael Roe

THE BOAT ASHORE (1996)

Michael Roe

The first of several Michael Roe related projects (solo, Lost Dogs, 77’s) The Boat Ashore was the second of Roe’s solo projects and on it Roe becomes more approachable and transparent. He also played some of his most impressive, yet subdued guitar of his entire career. It’s a beautiful record of songs that stands up well against the ticking of time.

With the 77’s Roe can grab you by the heart by reaching down through your throat. On The Boat Ashore Roe does so by lulling you into a resistant free, prostrate position with melody, subtlety and beauty in ten perfectly crafted songs. On his solo projects Roe is much more Neil Young troubadour than Robert Plant front man and the respite from the crunching guitars and pounding drums is a welcomed relief and allows the softer and more introspective Roe to shine. But don’t think that mellow means passive as the content and guitar playing is all passion, with an emphasis on “feeling.”

A great example of the above is the first real track, Honey Run. Pay close attention to the guitar styling of precision and emotion. But here the layered vocals also bring home the sweetness and melancholy vibe the music delivers. Love Like Gold delivers an acoustic guitar track layered just under tasty electric guitar solos.

Much of the album has a stream of consciousness feel as the vocals don’t seem to follow any normal constraints of verse chorus structure  associated with pop music. A friend of mine once called Michale’s solo style here free form psychedelic pop. That may be fitting as 60’s influences abound while never overpowering.

The lyrical content appears to consistently deal with “dealing with” what life deals you. The dissolution of relationships and the longing for connection are not new themes for Roe, but here they appear more personal and the wounds appear to not have completely healed but at least are beginning to scab over. Roe is careful not to tear it off but willing to at least pick at it. It has been this willingness over his entire career that has made Roe one of the finest songwriters and artists in CCM.

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  1. David
    November 3, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Why is there so little love for this album? Upon first listen it became a favorite and I’ve played it countless times since. Sure, it’s not edgy and rarely rocks, but it’s crafted so well and musically just flows over me each time I play it. AYSO

  2. Tim
    August 8, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    I love that Roe used his name with the album name to form the song title of the old spiritual “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” sung in modern times by Pete Seeger and by the Highwaymen, who had a #1 hit with their version (called simply “Michael”). Very clever.

  3. John Rodermond
    March 1, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Very clever indeed. An instant favourite of mine. Mike is a clever wordsmith and extremely talented guitar player.

    True to form, he crafts some fine and very stylish songs here that play well together and fit very cohesively as a collection. Mike’s voice has always resonated with me and here it evokes some real vulnerability.

    I met Mike backstage in 1994 after a megashow in Chicago where the 77’s and the Choir (two of my all-time favourites) shared top billing. What a show! The concert featured the Prayer Chain (ah, if only they hadn’t burned so hot), the Throes (somebody please tell me: where is Bill Campbell now?) and Hoi Polloi. It was a great day/night of music but I digress.

    My brief encounter with Mike and the other 77’s “put skin on” the singer/songwriter and has connected me to their music on another level. Sure Mike has his rock star persona, but on his solo efforts, more than anywhere else, I think we see a little more of him and consequently I’m challenged to look into myself a little more as well.

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