Blackie and the Rodeo Kings is a Canadian supergroup born of the highest intentions. They came together to immortalize, or at least further popularize, the great songs of Willie P. Bennett, the Jimi Hendrix of the mandolin. (Although Willie has a number of solo albums out, he is better known as the magneto in the Fred Eaglesmith band, a perennially touring outfit of mythic proportions.) The three principals are each artists of great stature and immense talent.
Stephen Fearing has often been called the Richard Thompson of Canada, which is a compliment to both men. He is a gripping solo artist and an acoustic wonder, rare. I was very impressed by how strong an ensemble player he also is, since many solo experts do not excel here. His songs are superlative, and whether penned solo or with his growing number of partners, you always hear his voice in the song.
Colin Linden is one of the most audacious talents of the Canadian scene. His eight solo CDs are only the beginning. He is a sought after producer, session player, and songwriter--on stage, in the studio, and on screen. His cameo as a minstrel clergyman in the Coen Brothers film Intolerable Cruelty was excellent, he sang a beautiful and faithful version of the Simon and Garfunkel classic "April Come She Will." Colin is a blistering slide guitar player, an inspired studio force, and a musicians musician.
I didnt know as much about Tom Wilson when I met the group recently in NYC, before their appearance at Joes Pub (a beautiful listening room in Soho). What an amazing fellow he is. Tom has had the most success of the three with the group Junkhouse and also on his own, several Top 5 records. He can sing so low that it threatens the pull the nails out of the floorboards. His star power on stage is so absolute, he doesnt even have to show it. And when he turns it on the least little bit, its like a spotlight came on.
The chemistry of these three is something to behold. The good news is that it comes across completely on the record, and thats unusual, and a real tribute to all of them and to the talent of their producer Colin Linden. They are each incredible singers and players. Their songs are mighty, all the way there. As men I found them even more impressive.
a little time to talk together in between sound check and doors, as its
called. The next day I continued on with Colin on the cell phone. They
were stopped en route to the next gig, waiting on line at a Cracker Barrel.
Dig these Canadian giants of song, listen
to their clips, and buy
the new fantastic record, Bark. Its their first release in
the States, and long overdue.