Justin Saladino Band 2022
In search of truth and the ways to conceal it, Canadian axeman ventures across stylistic frontiers and locates new scents beyond the pale.
Without overtly stating so, Justin Saladino seems to have closed the first, decade-long phase of his recording career with 2020’s concert album, and “Honest Lies” is apparently opening a second chapter in the Montreal-raised artist’s tireless rise to the apex of blues. Only blues stopped being the sole focus of his oeuvre, this platter signaling a shift in the singing guitarist’s paradigm as he, who never demonstrated the desire to feel restricted by the genre’s bounds, proposes that listener accept a deeper perspective and fills fresh songs with a prairie provinces’ expanse. Yet if there’s an aromatic whiff of Americana in the lead-in single “Sink Or Swim” which has resolve smeared over its sweet roll, swaying refrain and insistent solo, and acoustic Appalachia in “Half-Heartedly” which will soothe a worried mind, such a change in the weather can prove deceptive.
To truly understand what’s going on here, one should look no further than the album’s very center, where “Honest Lies” lies and witness how elegantly Saladino’s strings pass the piece’s sharp, menacing riffs that propel his voice to the sunshiny, contented “Won’t Say No” which lightly moves against the grain of all the things blues is supposed to be about. So while the slider-polished “Let You Go” softly brushes past the sorrow, supported by Denis Paquin’s robust beat, before it gains dynamic gravity and fleshes out its chorus with effervescent backing vocals, the twangy, triumphant “Blind Faith” offers infectious recitative and a brilliantly commercial sound to hint at Justin’s wish to proceed to a bigger league, yet harmonic figures of the soulful “Fan The Flames” unfold a more dramatic prospect to the future possibilities.
This is also why “Let Me In Again” explores ethereal vistas in a fusionesque manner but finds terra firma in Saladino’s emotional ocean, until “Can’t Have You Around” anchors his ship to rock bottom, with Gabriel Forget’s bass and Gabriel Bertrand Gagnon’s organ providing a solid weight for Justin to keep on an even keel until “Don’t Worry ‘Bout It” lets its folksy lace bring the record’s optimism to the fore. That’s the gist of concealing reality in order to form a new existence – and that’s the gift the Quebecoise master has to bear.