Artist: Blue Rodeo
Album: 1000 Arms
Release Date: 11/11/2016
Some have compared Blue Rodeo to the Eagles, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and even the Beatles— all great songwriting bands. It’s not overstatement. The band has been delivering a country-rock-pop sound since 1984 across fourteen albums, and has won nearly every Canadian music industry award, all without making much noise in the U.S. Led by the songwriter/vocalist/guitarist combo of Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy, Blue Rodeo has generated four million units in sales and has an astounding record of achieving Gold Sales level with every studio album release. Through their history there have been several personnel changes, but Keelor and Cuddy have been constants. Apparently the two actually write separately, but like Lennon and McCartney, both of their names appear together on all of the song credits.
As with most of their albums, 1000 Arms features a blend of acoustic and electric guitars with rock dynamics, gorgeous, soaring harmonies and songs that, despite being lyrically strong, will likely be enduring for their melodic, textured musicality. For this session– a dozen songs extending for almost a full hour– they feature seven band members and two guests for a couple of tracks. The interplay of three guitarists, pedal steel and keyboards forms a robust, bright sound. There are some psychedelic touches too, especially on “Dust to Gold, “Can’t Find My Way Back to You” and the epic, electrically dense closer, “The Flame.” Blue Rodeo is promoting the truly Beatlesque single, “Superstar,” which, like several other famous pop tunes that come to mind, features a French horn for an added touch. Most of the songs have these common elements: strong harmonies, resounding organ, chorus-driven passages and tight electric guitar solos. Jimmy Bowskill guests on mandolin for the most country sounding song, “I Can’t Hide This Anymore,” and again on “Jimmy Fall Down.” “Rabbit’s Foot” is reminiscent of the Traveling Willburys’ sound. “Dust to Gold” stands out because it is darker, driven by a spooky combination of guitar synthesizer, organ and pedal steel. While the first half of the album features mostly organ, piano is prominent on the second half. The chiming piano and spacey guitar solo drive “Can’t Find My Way Back to You.” The album is remarkably strong throughout and if there is quibble at all, it’s that Blue Rodeo is almost too consistent. Adding a few that vary from the predominant sound, like “Dust to Gold” or “I Can’t Hide This Anymore,” would only help.
This might be the time for Blue Rodeo to get some richly deserved attention here in the states. The band is on tour in some key cities from now until Thanksgiving. Catch them in Philly on November 14th, Chicago on November 16th, Nashville on November 18th and New York November 22nd. For further dates head to their website.