- Blackie And The Rodeo Kings
File Under: Music
For Chrissakes – Canada ain’t that far away, people.
How did Blackie And The Rodeo Kings stay under the Americana/roots music/alt-country/whatever-you-want-to-call-it radar for the last 18 years ?
No matter: that’s all about to change with the release of South. What started out as a collection of stripped-down tunes birthed from backstage picking sessions and sittin’-around-the-kitchen jams (think Delaney & Bonnie’s Motel Shot ) evolved into a full-fledged album that rocks a little; twangs a little; ain’t scared to keep on driving ‘til daybreak; and when it’s time to lay the cards on the table will look you straight in the eye and break your heart if you’re not careful.
Blackie And The Rodeo Kings’ fuse was lit back in 1996 when Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden, and Tom Wilson first collaborated on a tribute album to Canadian folk artist Willie P. Bennett (who, it just so happens, recorded an album in 1978 called Blackie And The Rodeo King – singular). The music they created was too good to stop – and over the years since, the trio have cranked out a string of albums (including the Juno Award-winning Kings Of Love ) while maintaining their own careers outside of the Rodeo Kings. The talented singing/songwriting/picking trio brought bassist John Dymond and drummer Gary Craig into the fold along the way, creating their own brand of rootsy, ragged, and real electric sound.
For South, the band is basically unplugged – but don’t for a moment think that there aren’t sparks coming out the tailpipe at times. That’s one mean little mando Colin Linden is chugging on during “Everything I Am” against Craig’s slinky-assed drums. “Gotta Stay Young” is cool and greasy – good greasy – even though it’s all acoustic and right in your lap (and even cooler because of it). And there’s no screaming solo that splits the glasspack rumble of “Summertime’s Over” wide open, but it doesn’t need one … just throw a pair of Ray-Bans and bang another gear. Linden’s slippery dobro tailgates Tom Wilson’s vocal on “North”; Dymond and Craig team up to keep “Fleur De Lys” all loosey-goosey and country funky; and the band’s cover of Willie Bennett’s “Driftin Snow” (now that’s some nasty guitar pickin’) is guaranteed to have you turning up your collar and tucking a little deeper into your coat.
Wisps of the masters are woven all through South. You could’ve told me the title track was a Darkness On The Edge Of Town -era Springsteen song and I would’ve believed you (it’s not, of course – it’s a Colin Linden tune); same with the sweet swagger of the Linden/Wilson-penned “Blow Me A Kiss”. You don’t have to try too hard to hear the late Richard Manuel’s spirit in Stephen Fearing’s “I’d Have To Be A Stone”; “Try Try Try Again” would’ve fit Manuel’s Bandmate Rick Danko like a glove; and Roy Orbison would’ve loved “Reinventing The Wheel Of Love”.
Simply put, Blackie And The Rodeo Kings’ South is the work of some talented vets – confident, yet passionate. You’ll double-dang swear you’ve heard many of these songs before, but you haven’t.
They’ve been waiting for you.
Brian Robbins wears his Ray-Bans over at www.brian-robbins.com