On an April Saturday in 1910, former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt stepped to the stage at the Sorbonne in Paris, France and delivered a 35-page speech he called “Citizenship in a Republic.” The finest part of this speech appears on page seven, and is often referred to as “The Man in the Arena.” Perhaps you know it. You’ve almost certainly heard it before.
“…who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
This particular passage has directly informed the likes of Nelson Mandela and former President Barack Obama. It has also directly informed Calgary, Alberta’s Daring Greatly, a band bonded by blood, harmony, and the idea that music can soothe the soul and heal us all. Lofty ideals, I know, but ones worth mentioning.
The California transplants offered up their second full-length LP ‘Works of Art’ in 2017 which was recorded partly in both Southern California and Calgary. The album opens with “Black and White” and subtle nods to Carlos Santana from lead guitarist Brandon Haddow – nothing overly hurried or rushed and a certain amount of restraint is displayed. This proves to be a recurring theme throughout. We’re served up something of a manifesto and something keeping completely in line with the Teddy Roosevelt speech when the band’s three vocalists, Dail, Patrick, and Liam Croome tell us:
“Looking back on everything we’ve said and done
It’s never been a choice to run”
Daring Greatly’s members believe firmly in the Summer of Love’s values of art, meditation, and spirituality. While that movement is 51 years in the past, these musicians proudly carry that torch, and it’s a torch worth carrying. The album’s second track, “Shotgun,” is another exercise is subtly and musical restraint – these guys aren’t interested in showing off, though they do possess the talent to do just that. It’s as if each member of the band, to a man, understands the value of the band as a whole, and that no one singular entity is bigger than that. These fellas are sticking to their guns and proudly carrying forward that Summer of Love mentality.
“Out here you can hear the cries
another gentle soul goes down
With love as my one and only defense,
fear can only go so far
Let’s open up
and it’ll take us to a higher place
Let hate be gone
it’s time for us to elevate”
Track three, “Cold, Dark Night” is something from a different place entirely, going back even before the fertile grounds of the 1960s, all the way back into the middle ’40s. It is a genuine surprise on an album that doesn’t take too many wild chances. Stephen Edward Williams honks away on both tenor and baritone sax while we’re regaled with a star-crossed lovers tale with lyrics like:
“Walking down the boulevard
His eyes full of tears and an empty heart
Thinking bout the losing fight
Out there waiting on a cold dark night”
It’s a lovers’ story with a moody feel that recalls images from black and white detective flicks from so long ago. This is pool hall music, music for the neon lights at the end of the boulevard on a Saturday night. Liam Croome’s keyboards shine particularly bright here, as he takes the spotlight humbly, but with enough fire in his belly to paint a wonderful noir scene.
It’s clear Daring Greatly is all in. They left their native Calgary for L.A., then abandoned the glitz and plastic for a place less commercialized, less affected. They made camp in Encinitas then later decided Vista was the place for them. They consistently look for inspiration in the records of that wonderful summer in 1967 while spreading a message of fearless self-reliance. That alone is worth fighting for. I think Teddy Roosevelt would admire that.
review by Jason Thompson The Ear Candy Update