Blackie and the Rodeo Kings

True North Records, 2004

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


About the only thing that Neil Young, Alanis Morissette and Rush have in common is that all three have been the butt of Canadian jokes. For some reason, Canada seems to be the unfunny punch line to many ignorant music lovers. Geographical affiliation shouldn't be a part of criticism for any band, unless they're from Omaha.

The U.S. definitely shouldn't be making fun of Canada since some of the best rock has been coming from its neighbors up north, mainly with the New Pornographers, Neko Case and after one listen to my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Bark, you can add Blackie and the Rodeo Kings to this list of great new talent. The band is a supergroup of somewhat, featuring Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden and Tom Wilson, all established singers/songwriters in previous solo career and other band ventures.

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings has been featured in No Depression magazine and opened for blue-collar hipster hero Merle Haggard. Upon listening to Bark, it's hard to lump them into any category. There's definitely country influence, especially in Friday-night barroom raveups such as "Jackie Washington" and the shuffling opening track, "Swinging From the Chains of Love." However, there's also brooding ballads like "Heaven Knows Your Name" and quirky, Warren-Zevon like ditties, like "Stoned."

After one listen, the biggest comparisons I can come up with are Los Lobos and later-day Elvis Costello. However, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings manage to sound distinctive without reinventing too many genres. It's a testament to solid songwriting, sharp hooks and the band's ability to lay down hooks that aren't twangy or flimsy.

Bark goes down easy, clocking in at less than an hour. The songwriting rarely falls into sentimental sap, yet is simplistic and uncluttered. "There's a long list of whys / You're not here tonight / It's dark outside / You couldn't find a ride" opens "Lock the Doors."

Repeated listens reveal more of Bark's muscle. It's a bit too polished to be considered alt-country and it's definitely too country for Dave Matthews fans. Still, with a little luck, and with songs like "Heaven Knows Your Name" and for the High Times reading circuit, "Stoned," Bark will hopefully find a mass audience beyond its Canadian borders. Lasso it up.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2004 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of True North Records, and is used for informational purposes only.