Big Blue Sky
Artist: Bebo Norman
In today's market there are a dreadful amount of overexposed artists. Few and more delightful are those underexposed artists, whose assaulting marketing scheme doesn't involve cramming them down our throats, constantly reminding us just how wonderful their artist is, instead allowing us to discover at our own pace their talents. Such is the case with Bebo Norman, a refreshingly adept songwriter whose understated gifts are nowhere more evident than his new album, Big Blue Sky.
What will be most obvious to fans will be the production shift from Norman's previous two efforts. Southern-born and raised, Norman's The Fabric of Verse and Ten Thousand Days, while not as folk as folk gets, still fell comfortably into the folk category, containing acoustic ballads and gentle folk tunes like "The Hammer Holds" and "A Page is Turned." These albums established Norman not only as an artist coming into his own, but also as a first-rate songwriter. Big Blue Sky reveals Norman expanding his musical horizons, reaching into pop/rock territory, yet still grounded by solid songwriting instincts and poised performances.
The album opens with a couple of acoustic pop/rock numbers, which dip only slightly into experimental territory. There's something poised and yet fresh and wide-eyed about Norman's vocal style which forms the common thread through tracks like the album's opener, "I Am." Far from taking away from the songs' impact, the enhanced production on numbers like the atmospheric "Break Me Through" lends a marvelous richness to Norman's already rich song stylings. All is not folk-less, however; the heart of the album remains Norman's dexterity at crafting engaging acoustic folk tunes. "Sons and Daughters" wraps a warm acoustic guitar in shimmering synthesizer, and the captivating "Perhaps She'll Wait," and "All That I Have Sown" display the range of Norman's abilities.
Although Big Blue Sky is less a folk album than an acoustic pop/rock album, this style does nothing except bring different musical options to Norman's signature sound. Most certainly Norman's most mature effort to date, Big Blue Sky is a warm inviting album that begs a second listen as much for its stellar songwriting as for its spunk and enthusiasm.
Glenn McCarty 6/15/2001