Bumpy rides are commonplace in the music industry, especially if you're in a band with a heart for ministry. The balancing act (pun absolutely intended) between stage ego and humility, between music and message, between accessibility and personality. Few know these struggles better than Mark Nicks of Cool Hand Luke. As the only remaining member of the eight-year-old band, Hicks has had to rethink and resubmit absolutely everything CHL is about to God. After taking a year off from music and working to promote the cause of Invisible Children Inc, he returned to music, with two new members in Joey Holman taking over guitar duties, and Casey McBride (formerly of The Kick) on bass.
And fans waited with baited breath for a new album… and are still waiting.
But before a post-revival LP arrives, we've been given The Balancing Act- a collection of mostly older songs off the group's long-gone independent releases. These aged tracks are joined by only three completely new songs, as well as a smattering of cuts off prior releases. As we venture through each song- visiting the ghosts of CHL past- one can almost taste the dust stirred up into the air. Make no mistake- some of the tracks feel as old and unpolished as they are. I must admit- I had all but settled into the soft groove and contemplative feel of modern CHL, when the screaming track on "Case of Emergency" disrupted my contemplation.
There's so much depth to Cool Hand Luke in its more recent incarnations- the older material only serves as a stark contrast to just how far they've come [I could go on, but there are already reviews of the brilliance of Wake Up, O Sleeper and The Fires Of Life]. The Balancing Act is not even close to a 'Best Of' album, with too little of a glimpse into the future. The biggest draw of this album isn't even on the disc- it's in the accompanying booklet's retrospective on the band's history- complete with notes from former guitarist Jason Hammil and producer Steve Hindalong.
The Balancing Act is a pit stop on the road to Cool Hand Luke's next season of creative life. If you've never heard them before, pick up one of the two albums I mentioned previously. And if you're a longtime fan - you've already bought this for the liner notes.- Review date: 4/16/07, written by David Goodman
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