Michael Roe is one of those artists that leaves an indelible mark on any music fan fortunate enough to absorb his work. His lyrics have a way of illuminating the struggles of being human, the wondrous grace of God, and how the two intersect. His melodies are, of course catchy, but sneaky; they are inclined to slip into that place in our minds where melodies go, driving us to humming them when we least expect it.

His place in contemporary Christian music history is assured with his work as the anchor for the 77's, his collaboration with Lost Dogs and his solo releases. He has inspired a generation of Christian artists to strive for honesty, integrity and excellence in their creative efforts. The inspiration comes from the fact that these are the qualities that Roe pursues himself. "I just try to write the best songs possible - from the heart as much as I can. I want to play guitar better, write better songs, make better records and be a a better performer. I just can't imagine putting an ounce of energy into any other creative outlet. I know I will be sitting on my death-bed with a Mel Bay guitar chord book," he laughs.

While his work with the 77's has generally fallen in the pop/rock/blues vein, and the Lost Dogs have pursued all forms of acoustic American genres, Roe's solo efforts have generally been over the map musically, reflecting his own diverse listening tastes. It's not uncommon to find a jazz tune sitting next to a sweet pop ballad or a stripped-down gospel/blues piece.

Roe's newest solo effort, The Boat Ashore, continues his exploration of musical forms. Released on Innocent Media, the project promises to be Roe's most vibrant and personal to date, and different from any of his other ventures. Collaborating on the music with 77's drummer Bruce Spencer, Roe says that the tone of the albums is "moody, atmospheric and autumnal. That's a hard word to define, but it's the perfect word to describe the music. There are certain songs we do that bring up deep emotion. The album is very orchestrated - a lot of strings, a lot of harps - different kinds of colors and textures. The closest comparison that I come to is to say that it sounds like the rich, emotional tracks that Sting or Thomas Dolby scatter throughout their solo albums," he continues. "And Talk Talk has impacted me. Their two most recent albums are wildly experimental, yet very soft and strange. They've got odd orchestration - there are oboes, cellos, and other woodwind instruments combined with a basic rock band. It comes off sounding like psychedelic chamber jazz. That's the stuff that really gets under my skin."

To long-time fans of Michael Roe, The Boat Ashore will be yet another wonderful album of thought-provoking, life-enriching music. To newcomers, it will be a great introduction to an artist of rare talent and vision. Either way, this is not a project to be missed.