As the trumpets flare and the French horns resign themselves to a melodic and alluring low rumble, the unexpected piano and electronic drums create a call into the midst of a thought-provoking album. Cam Penner’s ‘To Build a Fire’ is a folk-rock album in stores now that ignites a passion for life and for transformation.
With his fifth studio album, Cam Penner continues to convey an honest heart that emerges in his lyrics as they cradle the embers of truth about the intricate and ever-changing complex world where it helps to know how “To Build a Fire”. With a new daughter by his side, Penner’s brutally honest lyrics dive right into the deep end as he embarks on a journey where he finds himself facing new challenges and new beginnings.
When the brass fanfare has faded, the title track’s bass drum sets the tone for the song as the lyrics spill over with survival and assurance – “I’ve got to know that you’ll make it through the night / Make it through the day / That you’ll make it out alive / That you’ll always have water running down the mountain side / Always have shelter / Know to build a fire.” One can see how a new father like Penner wants to know his daughter will be able to make her own way in the world, know that she’ll be able to come out on the other side, no matter what.
The rest of the album continues to feed into the flames of burning, hope-filled lyrics accompanied by campfire acoustic guitar. Every track consumes the senses and the listener is taken adrift on “Rivers Forgotten” as Penner’s raspy, soulful voice carries the weight of a world at the edge of redemption and revival. In today’s world of constant turmoil on a global scale, Penner sings that at the end of our days, diamonds, silver, and gold and all other material things are forgotten and so all that we know we leave behind is the world without us.
For Penner, it seems that love is the key to everything and “Young lover unite in the cause and lead us into battle / Bring the revival, the healing of the people, shaken and rattled / And under this genius, this weight of convenience, the world will crumble.” It makes for a striking reflection of those fighting over objects of the physical world, when in reality they could be healed by leaving behind a simple legacy – the simple act of love.
Influences of bluegrass and rock can be heard in the songs “No Consequence” and “Memphis” with the twang of banjos and prominent drums. Hitting all the right notes and showing a continued love for his daughter, “Curiosity” lets people into the world of an infant exploring the world for the first time and a parent seeing the world all over again, this time through their child’s eyes. “And there is so much more I thought I could teach you / You showed me, you silly little creature / These blue eyes take in everything they see – curiosity and our dreams.”
It’s not just about seeing the world for the first time – it’s about the hope of making the world a better place. Penner’s lyrics in “House of Lies” burn for change, for now and for generations to come, and asks who will be the one to stand up and rock the boat. “Stand your ground / Don’t back down / Don’t crave no crown / No false stories, no glory, no more children going hungry / No more please, please, please / No walls, no war, no more settling the score / No more begging on your knees / No more rich-man favours never favouring the poor…”
For anyone looking to find a comforting reminder of love, hope, and dreams, ‘To Build a Fire’ sets the tone for new beginnings and exciting endeavours. It’s an album filled with the prospect of challenging what has always been and creating something new and bright. With songs about love, exploration, and change, Penner has found a way to both calm and ignite the spirit simultaneously.
Cam Penner plays The Railway Club on Thursday, May 23. Click here for details.