If you mixed the troubadour social commentary and questioning of a young Dylan, the melodicism and accessibility of the likes of David Gray and a unique ability to combine such familiarity with a beautiful freshness too, you would get somewhere close to understanding where Chris Beland comes from artistically. You’d have to throw in a few other factors, too, the ability to switch from introspective folky to foot-on-the-monitor rocker, as the mood takes him, not being the least of these.

What I Believe is an excellent collection of astute and quite remarkable tunes. At one end of the spectrum, you have the understated beauty of Feel Like Crying; at the other, the grunt and drive of the Petty-esque title track. And in between, you have a fantastic sonic array of mood and melody, groove and grace.

I Don’t Think It’s A Sign is an infectious slice of Americana, Colson Canyon revels in a cosmic, indie-alt-country vibe, and Conspiracy is a wonderfully gentle ribbing at the expense of those who follow more radical ideas.

This album seems to sit a notch above everything so far in a career that has seen Chris Beland constantly resetting personal benchmarks with every release. How does he manage to do that?

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