Nine long years. That’s how long it has been since Canadian songwriter Tom Cochrane has released a studio album. Best known for his 1991 hit “Life is a Highway,” Cochrane prefers to take the slow lane between albums. “I always try and make a record when it needs to be made and you feel the inspiration to make it,” Cochrane posted on Facebook.
The long road to Take It Home, Cochrane’s new release (just out in the U.S.), has proved worthy. Masterfully crafted, the album features the iconic melodies and compelling narratives that have set Cochrane’s music apart from other artists for over four decades.
Take It Home finds Cochrane travelling back to his roots, paying homage to his blues and country rock influences. The album kicks off with the southern flavored “Can’t Stay Here” and “Sunday Afternoon Hang.” The latter of which is an all out party song about hanging out at the lake. Its infectious pop melody creates a mood similar to “Life is a Highway.”
The album takes a more introspective turn on “Country Girls Never Get Old.” A song about an abused girl who finds salvation in music. With dreams of success, she hits the road only to fall to delusions of grandeur: “When things don’t work the way you think / You might have known better but hindsight is cheap.”
Cochrane then pays homage to Blues great Robert Johnson with “First Time Around.” A fiery blues number with explosive riffs, chants, and scorching background vocals by Beverley Knight. It is Knight who also turns in a captivating performance on the album’s most emotional and powerful song, “Pink Time.”
While a tune about Alzheimer’s disease may not sound that captivating, the emotional lyrics and crescendoing arrangement of “Pink Time” turn it into a stunningly beautiful song. “And I drive a long-haul, all week-long and when I get home, you were all but gone. / I can’t let you go, even though you don’t know me. / What became of us? You’re gone in a sleep.”
Knight’s soaring background vocals, Ken Greer’s haunting steel guitar and Cochrane’s “The River” inspired harmonica solo swell to a powerful and dramatic climax. Images fly fast and furious as the truck driver envisions a bitter-sweet end: “When the pink time comes, I’ll be right there, right there by your side./ Down by the bay, we’ll dance real slow while the jack pines sway./ When the sun lays down, we’ll go below.”
Reflections on life, love and loss permeate throughout the rest of Take It Home. In “The Ones That I’ve Known,” Cochrane pays tribute to Rosa Parks and “the ones that have stayed the course and gave so much for freedom.” Cochrane rounds out the chorus by singing, “I remember the ones and say, ‘Well done.'”
On “Another Year,” Cochrane laments the passing of time and the loss of his mother-in-law, “The ghosts are all around us now, you just have to stop and listen./ They’ll tell you what you need to hear and all the stuff we shouldn’t fear.”
For the album closer, Cochrane leaves his reflections behind and focuses on the future declaring that he’s “Back in the Game.” The roof-raising roadhouse number serves as a survivor’s celebration… and hopefully a sign of things to come from the singer. “Hold my drink, I’m back in the game,” Cochrane sings. To which I say, “We’ll hold your drink, Tom. Just don’t take so long with the next record!”