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Blackie and the Rodeo Kings - Swinging from the Chains of Love

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 1 / 4 / 2009

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings - Swinging from the Chains of Love
Label: True North Records
Format: CD


Superbly-packaged compilation album from Band-influenced Canadian group Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, who mix folk, blues and country to impressive effect

It’s almost embarrassing; Canadian label True North Records, itself a label I haven’t heard of before, have at least two releases this month both from bands that are well known and established in Canada and I haven’t heard of either of them before. Blackie and The Rodeo Kings is a trio made up of Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson who recorded what they thought would be a one-off tribute album to Willie P. Bennett the Canadian singer/songwriter who sadly passed away just over a year ago from a heart attack at the age of 57. Linden, Fearing and Wilson are all well-known musicians in Canada and had a string of solo-releases behind them but the tribute album they believed was going to be a once in a lifetime thing actually took over and became a major project such was the response to the finished album, ‘High Or Hurtin’. The story of how the trio got together is described extensively in the liner notes by Rob Bowman to ‘Swinging From The Chains Of Love’. It makes an interesting and fascinating read. So what can you expect from this compilation of songs from Blackie and The Rodeo Kings five albums? Firstly, and although it has nothing directly to do with the music it is relevant, the package is superb. A striking cover design on a digi-pack and a booklet full with not only that brilliant essay by Bowman but with images of various records and band photos. As for the actual music, roots-rock is probably the best description of the sound these three talented musicians make over the fourteen songs covered by this compilation. The band mix folk, blues and country to good effect. There is a cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ that is taken from the ‘Johnny’s Blues’ tribute album that apparently reduced Rosanne Cash to tears ( in a good way I hasten to add) when she heard the band perform the song their way live. It’s certainly an inspired take on one of Cash’s best-known songs and the story behind the recording is covered in detail in the liner notes. Special mention has to be made of the previously unreleased ‘The Caves Of Jericho’ where, unsurprisingly, the Blackies sound like the Band; there’s that soulful joining of voices that is so sorely missed, voices that shouldn’t gel so well together but just do and with the playing sounding so effortless yet so right it’s a faultless version of a song that originally appeared on the ‘Jericho’ album. In many other ways as well Blackie and the Rodeo Kings bring back memories of The Band, especially on the songs members of Blackie composed. But even on Willie P Bennett songs such as ‘White Line’ the spirit of The Band hovers over the arrangement of the song and in the harmonies. Also, much like The Band, this trio, by mixing the various roots styles, make more of a lasting impression when the vocals emit more emotion which is usually on the slower-paced songs. Whereas their playing cannot be faulted it really is when the three members either take it on turns to sing a verse or sing in harmony on a chorus that the magic happens. On faster paced numbers like the title song, while again the playing and singing cannot be faulted, the band sound much like any other group and tend to lose that thing that makes them so special. Thankfully whoever compiled these fourteen songs has chosen tunes that showcase that Band influence to the full; ‘Heaven For A Lonely Man’ is another fine example and makes a good case for checking out the trio’s original five albums. Superbly produced by Colin Linden this is an excellent place to start for those of us who have only just discovered what must be one of the best bands to ever come out of Canada.

Track Listing:-
1 Stoned
2 49 Tons
3 Water Or Gasoline
4 Swinging From The Chains Of Love
5 Heaven For A Lonely Man
6 Remedy
7 Folsom Prison Blues
8 Sometimes It Comes So Easy
9 Caves Of Jericho
10 If I Catch You Crying
11 Vale Of Tears
12 Lean On Your Peers
13 White Line
14 Andrews

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