City And Colour If I Should Go Before You on 180g 2LP + Download
"There's a line that I'm trying to find, between the water and the open sky," sings Dallas Green on "Friends," the penultimate track off of his fifth release as City and Colour, If I Should Go Before You. For someone like Green, it's hard to imagine that there's much left to search for – he's traversed the globe on tour, released numerous albums (one most recently as You+Me with Alecia Moore, aka P!nk) and collected scores of accolades. Though Green is a musician, he doesn't make a show of things: that's the songs' job. Thus he's done this all quietly, intentionally, still looking for the next answer or dog-eared chapter each record holds. And this time, on If I Should Go Before You, he once again uncovered something new: a certain kind of family in his bandmates.
"It's been a very special two years for me," says Green, about the period since the release of 2013's The Hurry and the Harm, which has seen him touring with the consistent ensemble of Dante Schwebel (guitar: Dan Auerbach, Rumba Shaker), Doug MacGregor (drums: Constantines), Jack Lawrence (bass: The Raconteurs, Dead Weather) and multi-instrumentalist Matt Kelly. "They inspired me to want to create new music, just to create it with them – I don't think I wrote these songs for the band, per se, but I certainly wrote them because of the band."
Green had always been an introspective, solitary writer, demoing songs in his basement, working up every instrumental part by himself. But he considers If I Should Go Before You to be a band record, where the input of these trusted comrades was of the upmost importance. Even more pivotal was trying to capture the essence of their live show symbiosis in the studio; which comes through with an undeniable force. For a project that was very much about the inner world of Green, these relationships have morphed City and Colour into something with more emotive power than ever before: the layers go beyond just music and lyrics, into the people creating the songs themselves.
But there was one thing that Green did want to do himself this time: produce the record. He returned to Blackbird Studios in Nashville, where The Hurry and the Harm was made, but decided to take the production reigns himself, with the help of friend Karl Bareham as his partner and engineer, along with the masterful mixing skills of Jaquire King (Dawes, Kings of Leon, Tom Waits). Everyone who had a hand in the making of the record was or became part of the City and Colour family. Green's songs have always had a striking, visceral feel that pumps through the veins like oxygen, and, this time, it became a sort of translatable DNA.
It's a perfect time to think of everything he has done – and If I Should Go Before You is a celebration of that. With instrumentation recorded live off the floor, it comprises every part of the person Green has become over the years: chugging ballads that tug at the gut, aching confessionals set to slicing guitars, little licks of pedal steel for his new southern-swept soul, moody distortion from punk rock roots. Though he's recorded in many incarnations, If I Should Go Before You acts like a roadmap through all of them, showing that none of these were simply "projects," but they were part of the same whole.
The album opens with the sweeping, "Woman," a track that very well could be a surprise to those who might expect a simpler, acoustic-based entrance gate. At over nine minutes long, it's a sultry and dynamic ode to everlasting love expressed through a powerful, layered build of sounds and emotions like a complex sweep of watercolors – a percussive heartbeat, echoing riffs, Green's grounded yet ethereal falsetto. You can almost picture the stage lights spiral across a crowded auditorium; it moves with a life outside just the studio walls.