In honor of Blue Rodeo’s U.S. jaunt happening this week, I’ve decided to celebrate with Blue Rodeo Week. Here's where we've been so far:
The brief run of U.S. dates from Blue Rodeo begins on Wednesday night at The Magic Bag in Detroit, MI. I'll be in attendance for opening night, and sadly will miss the following night at Martyr's in Chicago. I SO want to tack on a few extra hours of driving to catch the Chi-town show, but my work schedule conflicts - it ain't happening this time around.
Rest assured, the next time that Blue Rodeo are back in the U.S., I will be making that Detroit/Chicago run....and maybe more!
The band posted the following Myspace bulletin this past weekend about the upcoming dates:
Blue Rodeo is heading stateside for a few nights of music.
Come out and join us for a wonderful night.
17 w Ferndale, MI ~ Magic Bag w/ Catfish Mafia
18 th Chicago, IL ~ Martyr's w/ Micah Walk
19 f Chattanooga, TN ~ Chattahippie Festival
20 sa New York, NY ~ Highline Ballroom w/ The Sadies!
Also, if you are attending the AMA Conference in Nashville, TN, come by the 2nd Fiddle (405 Broadway) at noon on Friday to hear Jim Cuddy, Luke Doucet, Justin Rutledge and Melissa McClelland perform at the Outlaws & Gunslingers Party!
I'm green with envy that TN folks will get the chance to see Jim Cuddy perform twice in a day!
Vinyl reader Dave left the following comment regarding Blue Rodeo Week:
Thanks for the concert post. I used to listen to Blue Rodeo a ton–especially Diamond Mine and Lost Together. That said, I hadn’t popped in one of their cds recently, so the tribute is a nice refresher.
Which brings up a good point - perhaps you've missed a few albums from Blue Rodeo and aren't completely up to date? For anyone that might be on the fence about checking out a Blue Rodeo show in their neck of the woods, here is a piece of what you've missed from the last two albums, Are You Ready (2005) and Small Miracles (2007)
Let's start with the band's current album Small Miracles - I'll admit that I wasn't floored with the album initially. 1995's Nowhere to Here was probably the last BR album that met with any resistance from my ears, and similar to that album, once I got what Small Miracles was about, it quickly became a favorite. It's interesting that though I was initially skeptical, I would now say that Small Miracles has some of my favorite songs that Cuddy and Keelor have written in years. "C'mon," the lead single off Small Miracles is just FUN!
That was the day that we rode together
Times like that are now gone forever
C'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon
C'mon down with us
C'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon
C'mon down with us
"C'mon" from Small Miracles
"Blue House" is signature stuff lyrically from Greg Keelor. Yet musically, strangely upbeat. Keelor must be up to something. Sure enough, when you hear the lyrics, you know that Keelor is still the same old Keelor at heart.
I dreamt you were an iceberg
And I was the Arctic sea
And I held you but you held back from me
Yeah I held you but you held back from me
I want you to stay
After all the summer girls have gone away
I need to know
That you will still be here after the others go
I need the one
Who will walk with me in fall when summer's gone
When summer’s gone
"Summer Girls" from Small Miracles
After you've somehow managed to convert your girl/guy to being a Blue Rodeo fan, put "Summer Girls" on your next sappy mix CD.
I can't stand the sight of my own reflection
I just don't like what I see
All I ever hear you saying to me
Is that I'm not the man that I used to be So take the veil from your eyes
This is who I've always been
I know it's not a pretty sight
Yeah I tried but I failed
"It Makes Me Wonder" from Small Miracles
Keelor is back in familiar territory with "It Makes Me Wonder," and his weathered vocals and acoustic guitar are surrounded by lusciously full organ courtesy of BR keyboard player Bob Packwood. It was a shimmering highlight among many when I saw the band here in Cleveland last October at the Beachland Ballroom, in the midst of a "revue" type tour with Ron Sexsmith, Justin Rutledge and Luke Doucet sharing the stage and songs with Blue Rodeo.
Are You Ready:
From the Blue Rodeo site:
Are You Ready was produced by Blue Rodeo and Chris Shreenan-Dyck at The Woodshed, the recording studio the band built for themselves in downtown Toronto. The first record recorded at The Woodshed was 2002’s Palace Of Gold. The songs on Palace of Gold were driven by the Bushwhack Horns and included a ten-piece string section. In contrast, the newest album is much sparser in songwriting and execution.
“We had performed at a Gordon Lightfoot tribute and from that remembered how much we liked the sound of voices and acoustic guitars,” recalls Jim Cuddy. “We decided to go back and do more of an acoustic record. It didn’t turn out that way but our direction was set out.”
Greg Keelor picks up the thought and continues “We have our own studio and can take our time. The last record we indulged ourselves with horns and strings. We pulled way back this time.”
The album was also the swan song for keyboard player James Gray, who was out of the band shortly after the album was finished. Replacing Gray was Bob Packwood, who had been playing keyboards in Cuddy's solo band, and quickly picked up the ball for Blue Rodeo's scheduled touring for Are You Ready. Gray spent his early years in the shadow of previous keyboard player Bob Wiseman, but quickly demonstrated his chops, and also added great background vocals in the live setting on songs like "It Could Happen to You" from Tremolo. And oh yeah, one thing that Gray had in his favor - like Wiseman, he could play, and throw down many a mean solo on demand!
With Gray's departure, Packwood had big shoes to fill in the keyboards slot for Blue Rodeo, and he spent the touring cycle for Are You Ready working hard to fill those shoes, and win over any skeptical BR fans. Luckily, the BR fanbase aren't the harshest bunch you'll ever meet, and I'd say that Packwood was welcomed by most, and he converted the rest, after they saw him play.
As for James Gray, he left on a high note with Are You Ready. You can't ask for much more than that, except for perhaps a good severance package
A crowded room on Beverley
A party for the rent
You were sitting casually
With a few of your fabulous friends
I asked you what your name was
But you just turned and laughed
"Beverley Street" from Are You Ready
The first thought that I had when I heard "Beverley Street," was "this sounds like vintage Blue Rodeo." No, no - I'm talkin' VINTAGE here.
And it turns out, that's exactly what it was, a forgotten track originally written for Diamond Mine:
With the sound of Bob Egan’s pedal steel guitar floating through many of the tracks, fans might think that the band has returned to its original country-rock roots. Indeed, the song “Beverley Street” was originally written for the band’s second album, Diamond Mine, and then forgotten until a local Toronto band played their own version (learned from a long-forgotten live bootleg) for Blue Rodeo’s Bazil Donovan who then reminded Jim and Greg about the song.
Reaching back into your back catalog for unreleased chestnuts always makes for good ear candy, and "Beverley Street" is proof positive of that.
As we drove on through the Finger Lakes
Water shining at our side
I was wrestling the demons in my mind
But it seemed to me you were reaching for
Some places we'd never been
Where we'd leave the past
On some dark road behind
"Finger Lakes" from Are You Ready
This is one of the things I really love about Blue Rodeo, their ability to weave a location, the time of the season, and the feeling in the air into an experience that takes you on a beautiful trip - no mind altering substances required! This one is one of Cuddy's best.
That's it for today - get your tail out to a show this week if you can. If you're within a couple of hours, drive it and you won't regret it. Go see these guys live!
Purchase Small Miracles from Amazon - CD and MP3
Purchase Are You Ready - CD or MP3
Blue Rodeo events and ticket purchase links
Advance press for the Detroit show at The Magic Bag.
Some recent show reports from the Blue Rodeo fan forum.
Blue Rodeo official website