Before you can tell the story of local singer-songwriter Chris Beland's new album, you have little choice but to tell the story of his life.
It's a story of tough times and triumph, wandering and wondering. A lifelong search culminated by a life-changing discovery, followed by ... more searching.
Here's the short version: Beland, now 33, was born and raised in California and spent the first three decades of his life calling one man “Dad," until two years ago, when his mother reached out to a man she'd hung out with one night after a rock concert in the late 1970s.
That man was John Beland, a career musician best known as the leader of country-rock icons the Flying Burrito Brothers in the 1980s. John Beland was not only responsive, but overjoyed to learn, through a paternity test, that he had a son he had never known.
Near the end of 2010, Chris Beland (then living and working under a different last name) released his second album, “The Weather Man," and John Beland flew to Bend for the album-release show. It was the first time the two had ever met.
At the show, John joined Chris on stage for a rendition of Simon & Garfunkel's “The Boxer." They also announced, then and there, that they'd be working on a new album together.
That new album is “Danger of Love," which Chris Beland will celebrate with a show Saturday night in Bend (see “If you go"). John's playing is all over it — organ here, Dobro and mandolin there — but the songs and the sound revolve around Chris and the latest chapter of his life.
“I feel like I've handed the world my diary and said, 'Hey, go ahead and read it,'" Chris Beland said in an interview earlier this week. “Because those songs are basically what I've been struggling with over this last year.
“I definitely feel like I'm more emotionally invested in this album," he said, “than I've ever been into anything in my life."
Sonically, “Danger of Love" is an amalgam of the folk and pop sounds Beland has mined all along. But it's bigger and fuller and prettier and better than his previous work, thanks to a bunch of talented local players and the guidance of Keith Banning and Michael Watson at Lonely Grange Recorders in Sisters, where the album was made. (Worth noting: It was largely funded by 148 donors who gave more than $11,000 to Beland's effort via the fundraising website Kickstarter.)
In an hour of talking about the album, Beland cites influences ranging from modern artists like The Tallest Man on Earth, Other Lives, Fionn Regan, Andrew Bird and Bon Iver to classics such as Pink Floyd, Willie Nelson and Jeff Buckley. In an hour of listening to “Danger of Love," you'll hear everything from stark, confessional folk to rollicking full-band rock jams to quirky little pop songs that crescendo into noisy conclusions.
And throughout, you'll hear Beland wrestling with his post-Dad world. Besides affirming Beland's belief that making music is what he should be doing, that discovery also shook him to his core.
“I've been putting everything out on the table that I once believed in and kind of questioning it all," he said. “Questions about God and what I believe and faith ... just trying to rediscover who I am and what I believe."
With little provocation, he continues: “I didn't have that many questions until after (discovering my real dad). It was almost like a blanket with yarn sticking out, and you keep pulling on the yarn and all of a sudden all you have is a bunch of yarn. I just kept pulling at it, question after question, like, 'Oh, this is who my dad is?'
“I started questioning other things in life. 'Is this what I believe?'" Beland said. “You would think it would be like my life is more complete now and that I feel like everything is in place ... but if anything it's made me go, 'What else don't I know about myself?'"
That feeling is encapsulated in the chorus of the album's second song, “All That I Know," where Beland sings the title before admitting, “I don't really know."
He's about to take on more uncertainty. Beland recently quit the job he's held for the past seven years and is moving his family to California, where he'll pursue music as a full-time job. His wife, Annie, is not only supportive, she pushed him to make the leap. (She's already in California passing out copies of the album and scouting potential gigs.)
“She told me, 'I will do whatever it takes to back you up,'" he said. “It's a huge risk, but I feel like it's a good decision. I think you're supposed to pursue what you were born to do."
A leap. A risk. A good decision. Whatever you want to call it, Beland is going forward with a wide-open mind and a hunger for more answers.
“If anything, my new belief is that I haven't drawn any conclusions about anything yet. That my eyes are more filled with wonder," he said. “There's a lot to this world and to being here than I realized.
“I kind of feel like you can't just blindly leap over the questions," he said. “You have to answer them before you can move on."