Blue Rodeo
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Blue Rodeo

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | MAJOR | AFM

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | MAJOR | AFM
Band Rock Americana

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January-February 2008

Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy, the Lennon & McCartney of Canadian roots-rock, have been writing and performing together for 25 years. While there’s nothing to indicate that Small Miracles represents the end of the road, it does feel like it was written from a vantage point where that end is visible. References to mortality and finality sprout in song after song, and most everything feels bathed in twilight.

“I don’t have all the time in the world, they sing on the album-opening “So Far Away”, and the title track, tellingly, is set late in the evening. Keelor, whose songs tend to be edgier and more sprawling than Cuddy’s, laments a bruised-beyond-repair relationship that has reached the goodbye point in “It Makes Me Wonder”. “C’mon,” which captures the sextet at their catchy-rock best, tells of days that are gone forever. Even Cuddy’s brightly lit pop songs, “Summer Girls” and the crescendo marvel “This Town”, have the sting of leaving lurking. And “3 Hours Away”, a gentle country rocker that’s reprised as the more atmospheric “Where I Was Before” to close the album, nails the overall mood: “Some things aren’t meant to last/Like a day that burns up fast/Turn away and then it’s gone.”

Blue Rodeo’s trademark sound, a multi-national combination of Beatles, Band, and Byrds with the occasional honky-tonk detour, is in excellent form. Even if the end of the road appears to be on the minds of Keelor and Cuddy, their music still sounds like it could go on forever.

- Rick Cornell

- NO DEPRESSION


November 2nd, 2007 at 2:29 pm
By: Craig Shelburne

Last night at the Americana music festival in Nashville, I saw one of those dream concerts that I couldn’t have whipped up from my own imagination – Blue Rodeo, Ron Sexsmith, Luke Doucet, Justin Rutledge and Oh Susanna. I still can’t believe it. As my neighbors to the north are now suitably impressed, Americans are thinking, “Who?” All of these artists are from Canada, yet they fit squarely into the Americana format.
I can’t even tell you how many hours I’ve spent listening to them, especially Blue Rodeo. Their music entered my life at just the right time. I heard “Bad Timing” on a CD sampler in college and I have loved Jim Cuddy’s voice ever since; that vulnerability hooks me every time. “I don’t know why the harder I try, the harder it comes,” he sings. Yeah, I can relate to that. I’ve acquired every album they’ve made since then (a new one just came out in the U.S. this week), but I have to say, my favorite will always be Five Days in July. Casually recorded at a farm, it’s one of those albums where everything works – memorable melodies, lyrics that stick with you and great singing too. It’s been my constant companion for more than a decade now and I still love it and listen to it.
Cuddy and bandmate Greg Keelor (an exceptional singer in his own right) performed “Bad Timing” with one of the most astute songwriters I’ve ever heard, Ron Sexsmith. That guy writes perfect songs, I swear. He sang “Secret Heart,” one of his oldies, and then traded verses with Cuddy on another great tune, “Gold in Them Hills.” Oh Susanna’s “Filled With Gold” sounds like vintage Dolly Parton, Justin Rutledge’s “Too Sober to Sleep, Too Drunk to Cry” also gets the vulnerability thing just right, and Luke Doucet’s “Broken One” is a bitter at its best. I seriously believe that if Nashville’s country artists started mining some of this material, we’d all have a flood of hit records. Watching the guys in Blue Rodeo grinning and singing along with these tunes was blowing my mind. I put these songs on mix CDs all the time, so hearing them all in one night, in a variety of familiar voices, was really… I don’t know… surreal, I guess. But there’s no way I would have missed it.

- CMT.com


Everything they wanted, and more

JENNIFER VAN EVRA
Special to The Globe and Mail
January 16, 2008

BLUE RODEO
At the Orpheum Theatre
In Vancouver on Monday

Last summer, on the day when Canadian music veterans Blue Rodeo released their latest album, Small Miracles, they did something that most bands at their level wouldn't even consider: They busked. Performing at a string of locales all around Toronto, the group popped up at Union Station, at the Air Canada Centre before a Leafs game and at a hospital where a leukemia patient said the appearance gave him the strength to put on shoes for the first time in 34 days.

But judging by their Monday-night set at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver, an early gig in the band's current cross-Canada tour, music fans weren't the only ones who enjoyed that street-corner feel.

Complete with an old weathered-looking light standard at the front corner and nothing but a large black curtain behind, the group - dressed casually in jeans and cotton shirts - lined up along the front of the stage and kicked off the show with a couple of acoustic guitars, a single snare drum, keyboards, bass and pedal steel.

Stripped down to their essence, songs such as the hit ballad Try took on a new intimacy, and, with fantastic pedal steel by former Wilco member Bob Egan, down-home stomper Blue House had the feel of a packed kitchen party. The unplugged tunes also highlighted the remarkable rapport between Blue Rodeo founders and front men Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, whose rich, countrified harmonies even made a cover of the Bee Gees hit To Love Somebody sound warm and homey.

Then the curtain fell, and they rocked. With guitars jacked in and drummer Glenn Milchem behind a full kit, the band - which has been around for more than two decades - played powerhouse versions of fan favourites including Til I Am Myself Again and Rose-Coloured Glasses. They also performed many songs from Small Miracles, including the soul-lined rocker Black Ribbon, which saw keyboardist Bob Packwood pour everything he had into a blistering solo.
The energy dipped considerably during the ballads, most of which felt genuine and sweet, while a handful sounded more like lukewarm fodder for soft-hits radio.

The group took a funny poke at hometown boy Michael Buble, who had just kicked off his own cross-Canada tour in Victoria last week ("But this is Bubless," Cuddy quipped before the band kicked into the toe-tapping What Am I Doing Here, a song about their worst-ever gig). But other than that, they kept the between-song chatter to a minimum.

One of the show's odder moments came when Keelor called for singer-songwriter Barney Bentall to join the band onstage for a song. Bentall, along with his son, singer-songwriter Dustin Bentall, performed his minor 1980s hit Come Back To Me, which descended into a humorous duet of You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling with Cuddy.

All the while, the band members seemed to be having at least as much fun as their mostly middle-aged fans, who, by the end of the performance, were pressed up at the front of the stage like teenagers, dancing.

After two hours, the packed house was showing no signs of attention deficit and when the band returned for their first encore, Keelor said, "Are you going to help me sing this one, folks?" But he didn't need to ask: Within a few chords, fans had completely taken over Hasn't Hit Me Yet and sang the whole first half of the tune with nothing more than acoustic guitar accompaniment by Keelor, as flakes of fake snow fell in front of the stage-side lamppost.

Ending with a rousing, sing-along rendition of Lost Together that included vocals by husband-and-wife musicians Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland as well as Barney Bentall, the band, which has clearly carved its name into Canadian music history, left its fans sated.

Doucet also demonstrated his remarkable prowess on guitar when he kick-started the evening with a set taken mostly from his new album, Blood's Too Rich. Backed by a band that includes McClelland on guitar and vocals, Doucet performed a guitar-driven blend of old-time country, blues and Neil Young-vintage rock that included several jaw-dropping solos.

- The Globe and Mail



January 8, 2008

By MIKE ROSS -- Special to Sun Media

Jubilee Auditorium, Edmonton - January 7, 2008

RATING: 4.5 stars (out of 5)

EDMONTON - After all these years, Blue Rodeo can still surprise.

Impossible, you say?

A veteran band synonymous with words like "consistent" and reliable" that's been here a million times and does basically the same show every time can actually do something to shake things up?

Well, they did last night.

For the first of two nights at the Jubilee Auditorium, the band appeared to have morphed into a down-home, country jug band - complete with acoustic guitars and a stand-up drummer who played nothing but a snare - jamming out stripped down, salt-o'-the-earth arrangements that wouldn't have been out of place at the Grand Ole Opry - 50 years ago.

Not that big a stretch, I'll grant you. Blue Rodeo remains Canada's most country band that isn't a country band.

They could be a country band. All they'd need is some cowboy hats, some hits on country radio and a few drunk driving charges. Just joking - these guys would never get played on country radio. Yet they sound more country than most anything on there. Especially last night. The drummer didn't even have a cymbal.

Front man Jim Cuddy said, "As you can see, times are tough. We couldn't afford to bring the rest of our gear."

Just joking.

These guys are rich. Hello? Two sold-out nights in the Jube? All those platinum records?

They tour now behind another consistent and reliable new album, Small Miracles, which as usual contains a consistent and reliable assortment of hood-laden, rootsy gems that represents the finest that "alt-country" can offer.

It's alt-country with a touch of Everly Brothers, of course. That's what makes Blue Rodeo so special.

The show opened with a small skit. A man walked out into what appeared to be a small living room area, sat on a chair next to a record player and put on Ennio Morricone's The Lonely Goatherd or some such thing, which got a laugh.

What unfolded next was a rich tapestry of unplugged, rootsy goodness. The opener, Heart Like Mine, was just lovely. The lazy toon Five Days in May (from the album Five Days in July, which is really confusing) came off so peaceful and easy it could've been the Eagles on Quaaludes. Their version of To Love Somebody was wonderful.

An up-tempo new one called Blue House featured a tasty steel solo from Bob Egan and an even tastier piano solo from Bob Packwood. Keyword here: Tasty! You can see lots of new adjectives to add to "consistent" and "reliable."

And so it went. The quieter setting tolerated fewer wasted notes and showcased the some beloved songs in a whole new light.

The best example was probably Try, which sounds like a classic soul song set in a folk vein, recast on stage in a gentle two-step where you could hear every nuance. Cuddy even hit a higher note than was required. It was awesome.

I'm sure the crowd would've been pleased with this new and improved Blue Rodeo Jug Band all night, even the yahoos up in the balcony who kept shouting out for Dark Angel.

"I hate that song," Cuddy told them.

But then the band had another surprise up the sleeves of their tasteful western shirts.

With the release of a black scrim and a flash of light to reveal a proper drum kit for Glenn Milchem, Blue Rodeo ripped into a blistering rendition of Til I Am Myself Again - and voila, they were a country rock band rollicking away until well past deadline. Just like the old days.

What will they do next? These guys aren't famous by accident. The keyword is "showmanship."

- Edmonton Sun


By Kerry Doole
November 2007

Blue Rodeo It’s very easy to take this Canadian roots rock institution for granted after two-plus decades in the game. The impact and influence they’ve had on the younger generation of artists they’ve gone out of their way to assist should not be underestimated, and they keep regularly delivering quality work. Small Miracles, studio album number 11, is one such worthy addition to the canon. Like your favourite brand of beer, you essentially know what you’re going to get with a new Rodeo record: there are going to be the ballads sung sweetly by Jim Cuddy alongside the more introspective and intense tunes delivered via Greg Keelor’s trademark gruff vocals. This yin and yang of the Lennon and McCartney of Canrock remains the essence of Blue Rodeo, and it’s yet to sound tired. Sure, there’s some lightweight fare here that won’t linger long (“Summer Girls,” for one) but there’s enough of the good stuff to keep their faithful fan base content. The disc starts strong with Keelor in full stride on the moving “So Far Away,” followed by another tuneful Cuddy-sung ballad, “This Town.” The musicianship throughout is predictably top-notch, whether it’s the eloquent piano on the melancholy “Together” or the haunting steel guitar punctuation on musically adventurous highlight “Black Ribbon.” Long may this Rodeo ride. (Warner) - EXCLAIM



Sept. 28
Small Miracles
Just a few twang-heavy bars into the spirited opener, So Far Away, a deaf hermit with no radio could tell you this is Blue Rodeo. But familiarity doesn't always breed ennui, much less contempt. It is indeed a small miracle that an automatically identifiable band can make an album that sounds so fresh two decades after its debut. The vibrancy comes in part from a slight return to dormant country-fried roots, and Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor are pushing themselves farther than they were on 2005's comfort-food disc Are You Ready (witness Cuddy's atypically vitriolic C'mon and Beautiful’s jazzy outro). Warm, soulful and remarkably consistent, this is the stuff all 20-year-long careers should be made of.
--Ian McKellar

- National Post


They have the chops to warrant the attention and high expectations they’ve sparked since their debut.... When Rodeo hits the mark with the likes of “Summer Girls” they’re first class.
Harp – Feb 2008

Blue Rodeo’s trademark sound, a multi-national combination of Beatles, Band, and Byrds with the occasional honky-tonk detour, is in excellent form.
No Depression – Jan/Feb 2008

Watching the guys in Blue Rodeo grinning and singing along with these tunes was blowing my mind…there’s no way I would have missed it.
CMT.com

If as many bands played with the honesty and passion of Blue Rodeo, this would be a different world indeed.
Rolling Stone

It was awesome. These guys aren't famous by accident. 3.5 stars
Edmonton Sun
(Jan 7 Live Review – First night of Canadian tour)

For anyone who was expecting the same old midtempo country rock from a band that's been around for more than two decades, Small Miracles, Blue Rodeo's 11th studio outing, is a delightful surprise. …what sets this record apart is the terrific songwriting and inspired ensemble playing, with some built-in room for improvisation. ****
Ottawa Citizen

Just a few twang-heavy bars into the spirited opener, “So Far Away”, a deaf hermit with no radio could tell you this is Blue Rodeo. But familiarity doesn't always breed ennui, much less contempt. It is indeed a small miracle that an automatically identifiable band can make an album that sounds so fresh two decades after its debut. Warm, soulful and remarkably consistent, this is the stuff all 20-year-long careers should be made of.
National Post

With Small Miracles, it seems apparent that Canuck rootsy-rock Kings Blue Rodeo are at the top of their game. That's saying a lot. They have gone from humble to huge over their long career and are arguably miles ahead of almost anyone making these kind of subtly engaging and well-crafted songs. ****
Winnipeg Free Press

Small Miracles captures the magic that happens between musicians who have been playing together for years. ****
Victoria Times Colonist

Blue Rodeo are still the same as they ever were.
And, hopefully, the same as they always will be.
Toronto Sun

--

If as many bands played with the honesty and passion of Blue Rodeo, this would be a different world indeed.
Rolling Stone

These fellows’ stubborn conviction lifts them far above the ruck of today’s rock groups.
People Magazine

What their music does, more than anything else, is reach out to a rarely touched spot – a place where music and imagery are fused and lyrics become emotions, not just stories.”
Chicago Tribune

- Various


Discography

* The Things We Left Behind (2009)
* Blue Road (2008)
* Small Miracles (2007)
* Are You Ready (2005)
* In StereoVision (2005) - DVD
* Palace Of Gold (2002)
* The Days In Between (2000)
* Tremolo (1997)
* Nowhere To Here (1995)
* Five Days In July (1993)
* Lost Together (1992)
* Casino (1990)
* Diamond Mine (1989)
* Outskirts (1987)

Photos

Bio

The definition of a rebel is someone who goes against the grain. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! For close to thirty years now, Blue Rodeo has taken the road less traveled - and succeeded far beyond anyone’s expectations. The band emerged in the early 80’s as a countrified rock band in the era of hair metal and glossy pop. Despite sticking out like a sore thumb (or maybe because of it), their single “Try” became omni-present on radio across Canada and set in motion a three decade long career of headlining every club, theatre and arena in Canada. In 1993, when grunge rock was squeezing commercial rock off the radio, they recorded their quietest album, Five Days In July, and scored their biggest hit selling over a half million copies of that one record alone. And now, in the digital age, while everyone else is think of ways to sell single songs through the internet or snippets of songs on cell phones, Blue Rodeo has recorded a double album designed specifically to be enjoyed on vinyl. The Things We Left Behind is the real deal. Double gate-fold sleeve, 12 x 12 cover and two albums, four distinct sides programmed to take the listener on a trip.