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Cornflower Blue

Invincible – 2016 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Cornflower Blue

Recent musical evolution has inspired a question that rivals musing about the sounds of one hand clapping or falling trees in the absence of human perception; what exactly does one call Americana created by Canadians? In the case of Cornflower Blue, the answer is less about identifying a sonic definition and more about enjoying the circuitous yet coherent ride that vocalists/guitarists Trevor May and Theresa McInerney and their assembled friends provide on "Invincible," their third outing together.

Even a casual listen to "Invincible" will reveal snatches of The Outlaws' guitar tones ("Cold Snap," "The Ballad of Don Rich and Buck Owens"), Old 97s' rollicking abandon ("Catherine") and the Marshall Tucker Band's subtle yet obvious beauty ("Long Walk Home"). These reference points may not rise to the level of influence and yet they are clear evidence of the qualities they all share, namely a propensity toward simplicity blended with an innate desire for sophistication.

The band's Ontario roots give them a north-of-the-border kinship with Barenaked Ladies - minus the smirky pop affectations and college freshman sense of humor - and may partially account for May's stylized lyrical enunciation. This has led to Richard Thompson comparisons and the inevitable conclusion that McInerney serves as the Linda to May's Richard, and while their duets ("Snowed In," "Around My Heart") certainly glance in that direction, McInerney seems to hew closer to a rootsy blend of Shawn Colvin and Natalie Merchant. Towards the end of "Invincible," "Wrong" lopes along like the aforementioned Outlaws and Old 97s in their bracing collective country personae, punctuated by Deanna McDougall's forcefully lilting violin, which May and McInerney then accent with a chorus of "la la, la la la la" lifted nearly straight from Iggy Pop's "The Passenger." The lift succeeds, as it does throughout "Invincible," because it feels more like contextual homage than reverential Xerox and further broadens Cornflower Blue's already expansive and diverse sonic palette.