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Blue Rodeo – Casino (2CD RM, 2012)

This is (probably) my biggest score of this Taranna trip, and it may not even have happened. We were approaching the end of the day, and were heading back to the car as parking runs out at 6. But we had about half an hour to kill, so I suggested a quick pop into She Said Boom! (always an excellent shoppe for music AND books) as I was wanting a copy of a Collected Works of William Blake (I didn’t find it and am still looking. Alas). Anyway, I also had a quick dig though the music and, you guessed it, found some treasures. Especially this one…

I Wanna Taranna Pt. 34: She Said Boom! #1: Blue Rodeo – Casino 2CD RM (2012)

First off, what do I need to tell you about the album proper of Casino? Surely you know all the here: Til I Am Myself Again (my son’s favourite Blue Rodeo song, I can hear him learning the words in the back seat of the car), What Am I Doing Here, 5 A.M. (A Love Song), Montreal, Last Laugh, Trust Yourself, Two Tongues, Time, After The Rain and You’re Everywhere. 

Seriously. Stone cold classic.

The extra meat on the bones here, as if the album proper wasn’t enough, is the second disc of this 2012 re-release (part of their 25th anniversary boxed set, Blue Rodeo 1987 – 1993). It’s a disc of demos (awesome), but it also has two previously unreleased songs! When I saw what I held in my hand, I let out a little gasp of joy and immediately clutched it to my chest so no one else would get it from me!

If I Had A Heart, a previously unreleased demo, features Greg Keelor singing for a straight-on BR rocker with elegant slower bits as only they can do it. Then it’s Always Have A Place For You, the other previously unreleased demo, and it’s Jim Cuddy’s turn to swagger in the lead of a swingin’ funky rock tune that sounds like Saturday night down in the cowboy saloon. Maybe these two didn’t fit the flow of the album proper, or something, but both of these should have / could have been album tracks. 

Then we have demo versions of Til I Am Myself Again, What Am I Doing Here, 5 A.M. (A Love Song), Montreal, Last Laugh (which has accodion in the intro instead of guitar), Trust Yourself, Two Tongues, Time, and After the Rain. Oh man. All of them sound great. I can hear differences in them (slight lyrical differences, the way things get sung/phrased musically), almost like they might do it in a concert setting now, just to keep things interesting for themselves. I will say that hearing the intro to After The Rain done with tremolo guitar instead of the piano (as it is on the album) was eye-opening. There are differences in all of the tracks, some larger than other more subtle ones, but the point is clear: this was a band nailing it no matter what approach they tried. What a band of pure players.

Finally, there are two other demos that were released on later albums, but recorded at the time of Casino. Photograph (which found a home on Five Days in July) is a much faster tilt through bluegrass with mandolin and banjo… instead of the sweet country swing of the album version. And lastly, Is It You (later found on Lost Together) is a slow, big and deep echo of a track, with Keelor’s vocals right there in your ear above the musical swells, while the album version is much sweeter with acoustic guitar and sweet steel in the background… 

Yup. This was the score of the trip. I love Blue Rodeo, and it was a real treat to get to hear Casino again, as well as all of these demos and unreleased tracks!

Blue Rodeo – In Our Nature

I Wanna Taranna Pt. 5 BMV #5 Blue Rodeo – In Our Nature

Four years after the stellar The Things We Left Behind double album, Blue Rodeo graces us next with their 13th studio album, In Our Nature. As you can guess, I think it’s fantastic!

I stole this from the Amazons, because it pretty much covers it:

In Our Nature was produced by Blue Rodeo, primarily at Greg Keelor’s farm studio. While at Keelor’s farm, the band had each musician set up and perform in separate rooms around the house giving the record a very warm and communal character. 

“Recording at Greg’s farm was key to the groove of this record,” says Jim Cuddy. “I was a little unsure at the beginning whether it was a good idea to encamp at Greg’s as we have a great studio in downtown Toronto. But by the time we got comfortable at Greg’s, after a few days, it was obvious that being in his farmhouse and being surrounded by the great outdoors was having such a positive effect on the collective spirit. It was very unifying.” 

“Doing a lot of touring while making this record helped a lot,” says Greg Keelor. “Everybody was getting along and the band was playing well together. I think it’s a good crop of songs and everyone just played it right and they played it beautifully.””

What else can I add? Another stellar effort perfectly realized, and proof positive that this band always delivers. Song after song envelopes you, pulls you deep into the pocket with the band, and holds you there so you have no intention of ever leaving. In other words, another perfect Blue Rodeo album. Thanks, boys!

Blue Rodeo – The Things We Left Behind

I Wanna Taranna Pt. 4: BMV #4 Blue Rodeo – The Things We Left Behind

For some reason, as much of a fan of this band as I have been for years, there are still albums I just never grabbed. This 2CD set of new songs, their 12th album and their first studio double album, was one of them and, holy mackerel, I have been lacking without this collection of genius in my collection! 

Everything you love about Blue Rodeo is on full display here, tastefully done and so much fun. Just put it on and let it go. When it ends, start at the top and go again. This is exactly what I’ve done over the past couple of days, just letting these tunes wash over me, letting them absorb and become part of the Blue Rodeo collection already stored in my head. 

It occurred to me that whatever is wrong in your life, by the end of listening to a beautiful set like this, you’ll have a better perspective on the world and you can go forward with calm, clarity and cool.


Grail List Success!* Blue Rodeo – Daze In America

*Subtitled: Would Have Been A Grail List Item Had I Known It Existed!

That’s right, I’m a pretty big Blue Rodeo fan, and I’d never seen or heard of this release before. Maybe I wasn’t trying all that hard, but if I had known, you can bet I’d already have owned it long ago. Thankfully, though, I was recently enough trolling around the web site of Mike’s old store and boom, there was this promo CD listed… That’s an instant ordering, lemme tells ya!

Released on Discovery Records in 1995 (PRO-74504) during the Five Days In July tour, here we have one studio track, as well as live versions of 6 tracks, from Five Days In July, Casino and Lost Together. See what I mean? This one’s a keeper already! Now, I had a wee dig around the interwubs to see if I could figure out where and when the live tracks were recorded, but to no avail. That should bother me, being an information completist, but then I decided it hardly matters, they were recorded on tour and that’s that, I guess!

Here are the tracks:

1. Head Over Heels *
2. Hasn’t Hit Me Yet ^
3. Bad Timing ^
4. Til I Am Myself Again ~
5. Rain Down On Me #
6. Last To Know #
7. Trust Yourself ~

* Five Days In July studio version
^ Five Days In July   
~ Casino
# Lost Together

What a set list of songs, eh? All solid hits. Oh man. And how does it sound? Surely you know all of these tracks already, so you can just imagine that warm, close feeling a live setting would bring to what these already warm and wonderful songs offer! Here are some quick-take impressions…

The vocal harmonies on the intro to Hasn’t Hit Me Yet made the hairs on my arms stand up, it’s so good. And the steel solo is soooo great. When Cuddy’s vocals come in on Bad Timing, it just blows you away, and it’s such a sweet slow dancer version… Then again, Til I Am Myself Again rips in faster than the album track and sounds fantastic, and the Neil Young-esque guitar solo rules. Rain Down On Me sounds somehow even more country while still rocking solidly, loved it. Last To Know is another sweet slow jam version with a wonderful solo section. And finally, Trust Yourself turns into a driving rocker with great pounding drums and that organ giving it a carnival swirl, the guitar buzzing through a killer solo, and the whole track crashing the CD to a close beautifully. Goddamn that was beautiful.

Seriously. This was awesome.

Blue Rodeo – Outskirts

Total score yesterday… a beautiful copy of Outskirts, on LP! It’s a promotional copy, but as you can see from the pictures, the promo stamp is partially worn off already.

It even still has the label’s promo letter inside the sleeve!


Blue Rodeo – Small Miracles

Here’s another one I found for $1 (in pristine shape, too!) during our Taranna wanderings…

The Racy Lacy Anniversary Series, Part 15 (CD, $1)

Blue Rodeo in 2007 stay the course with great aplomb – the same timeless country meets soft rock and jazzy soulful glory, the same wonderful arrangements and harmony vocals, the same all-over brilliance. A new Blue Rodeo record is like a warm hug from a loved one. It just feels right.

Bob Packwood joins the game, his keyboard work a perfect addition. Fans know that these guys are legends in Canada, and this record just further cements that status.


Blue Rodeo – Palace Of Gold

Here’s another one I found for $1 in She Said Boom! on our trip. I know, right? Yup, it was seriously $1, and in perfect shape. Unreal.

The Racy Lacy Anniversary Series, Part 14 (CD, $1)

Blue Rodeo knocks out an incredible record, here. Every song is fully realized, and detailed perfectly. The soul groove’s gorgeous, and they sound playful and invigorated.

Add the Planet Soul Strings, the Bushwhack Horns (more trumpets!), and BR-newbie Bob Egan on guitar, and you’ve got a record that absolutely nails it.

Even with all these additions, they still sound like the Blue Rodeo we all know, love and admire. After all these years, we’re reminded of this band’s vitality.


The Best Fucking Collaboration Week Ever, Pt.2: Blue Rodeo – Just Like A Vacation

Hey folks! It’s The Best Fucking Collaboration Week Ever, Pt. 2!

Mike and Aaron will be doing simultaneous daily reviews of albums these two intrepid music reporters have sent to each other. Buckle up, buttercups, it’s gonna be a blast!

And you know what to do, right? For a better, more informative take on this album, go read Mike’s post. Go! Go! GO!

Ah, Blue Rodeo. I’ve always liked these guys. Funny, though, I’ve never collected all of their CDs. You’d think I would, given how much I like them. But everyone around me had them, or at least some of them, and it was no problem hearing a tune or three most places I went. Then Mike brilliantly gave me their first few records after he got the boxed set, and that gift blew my mind. So much greatness there.

Mike was surprised I didn’t even have this 2CD live set, and I said it was on my list and if I saw it, it would be mine. He went one better and sent it to me as a gift. Because Mike rocks. You all know this.

Confession: I’ve never seen Blue Rodeo live, though there were surely a million opportunities, over the years. Oversiiiiiiight! If you dig around in the KMA archives, though, I think James has seen them at least a couple of times…

Now, this was released in 1999… where was I, then? Living in downtown Montreal. Hey, there’s a tune on this set by the name Montreal! Great tune! Ahem. Anyway, I was deep into the Matador Records sound, at that point, as well as punk music and, while I have always really liked Blue Rodeo, I probably wasn’t playing their songs so much when this was released. Fair play, I do tend to go through phases, and living downtown in Canadian’s most awesomest city wouldn’t likely have made me wanna get my country roots rock on, so much.

So what to make of this set now, in 2016? Wowzers. It plays like a greatest hits set, and these guys have had A LOT of great hits. It’s crazy. Unfair to other bands, really. And on this set the band is on great form, and the versions are out of this world. I love the raw yet still clear and fun sound they achieved with this package. It totally leaves no doubt in your mind that this is a bunch of fantastic players, playing super-strong tunes, and making it all look and sound effortless. Seriously, when these guys get playing, the interplay between the instruments is magical.

On this collection, there are so many hits that even remotely casual fans would know, and some deep cuts that are equally worthy. Highlights include a brilliant Better Off As We Are (with awesome piano solo)… into a groovy Floating, again with the keys taking over as the track builds… into an After The Rain where the guitar slays… And then there’s…

Well. You know what, I’m not gonna go through all of this… Ha. You can tell what just happened there, right? I was writing as I listened and then I just realized that it’s not me being lazy, it’s truthfully that each song here is absolutely brilliant, and it’s a helluva lot easier for me to spare you all the effusive adjectives and just tell you to go buy this damn thing. Don’t believe me? Take a gander at THIS:

Til I Am Myself Again
What Am I Doing Here
Better Off As We Are
After The Rain
Fallen From Grace
The Ballad Of A Dime Store Greaser And The Blonde Mona Lisa
It Could Happen To You
Girl In Green
Trust Yourself

Dark Angel
Piranha Pool
Bad Timing
5 Days In May
Hasn’t Hit Me Yet
Diamond Mine
Falling Down Blue
Lost Together

I know, right? Hell YES!


My huge thanks to Mike for getting this set into my hands. I’ve loved playing it, and I will continue to do so. And it reminds me that I need to get out there and buy up the albums I haven’t got. Every time I hear this band, I think damn, I need to make these guys a more permanent part of the rotation. 2016 should be my year to do so! And I was just in Taranna twice this past month, probably walked right past all the albums I need to fill in the gaps… Gah!

SLCR #229: Blue Rodeo (January 14, 2016)

It’s 9:45 a.m. on Friday, January 22. I’m washing down my Robaxacet with Diet Pepsi, and The Guy (capitalized because I’m pretty sure that’s his legal name) is fixing the burnt-out element on our stove. I have better things to do than write a concert review right now (sleep) (that’s it), but I had to be up to let The Guy in, and this hard kitchen chair is the best thing for my back, so here we are. And I need to get this done, because we’re less than 12 hours away from the next show. And then 4 days from the next. And so on.

Seriously. I normally bury my list of upcoming shows at the bottom of the review, and don’t include it in the final copy that I save for the book I’ll never compile, but look at this. How did this happen?

  • Whitehorse w/Andy Shauf and Emily Wells (January 22)
  • Headstones (January 26)
  • Corb Lund (February 9)
  • Elliott Brood w/Nick Faye (February 10)
  • Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls w/Mo Kenney & Northcote (March 5)
  • Amelia Curran (March 8)
  • The Watchmen (March 25)
  • Metric w/Death Cab for Cutie (March 28)
  • Spirit of the West (March 31)
  • I Mother Earth (April 23)
  • Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids (April 25)
  • Ben Folds & yMusic w/Dotan (May 11)
  • Hawksley Workman & The Art of Time Ensemble (May 13)
  • City and Colour w/Shakey Graves (June 12)
  • Regina Folk Festival (August 5-7)

Those aren’t maybes. Those are all things I have tickets for (except for Grownups, and that’s only because tickets haven’t gone on sale yet). My goodness.

Anyway. Blue Rodeo. Canadian (rock? country?) legends. If you were born in this country or have ever visited it, you likely know their hits. I saw them ages ago at the Folk Festival and they were good, didn’t blow me away or anything. Then I saw them again at the Folk Festival this past year, and they were great. So so great. This would be my first time seeing them at their own show (if that makes sense), and I had high hopes for a repeat of this summer’s experience.

Having said that, my attendance at this show was sort of decided for me. I got the email notification that they were coming, and I thought “hey, Mark really liked Blue Rodeo at the Folk Festival too, I should send him this,” so I did, and he said “Great! Get us tickets and I’ll pay you back.” Now, at this point, I hadn’t actually decided whether or not I was going to go to this show, but I took this as a sign from God that I was meant to be there. Even as an atheist, I can find signs from God in all sorts of things whenever I want to do something anyway. Remember, your work fire drill is just God’s way of saying that it’s time to go try the DQ Blizzard of the Month. Anyway, I can tell God approved because we got really good seats.

With each of the four tickets, I was entitled to a free download of a Blue Rodeo album. I wanted to pick up the classics – meaning, the ones that had the songs I actually know – whereas Mark wanted newer stuff. We compromised, by which I mean he left it entirely up to me. That’s good teamwork. I picked their new live album, their two most recent studio albums, and Five Days in July. I listened to precisely none of these in preparation for the show. Mika and I did, however, listen to some Blue Rodeo themed station on Apple Music on the night before. And mostly I paid attention to the songs I actually know.

We got to the Conexus Arts Centre fairly early with lots of time to check out the stuff table. Lots of vinyl, lots of shirts, all the stuff you’d expect. Didn’t get anything. We checked our coats, which I hate doing because then you’re stuck there forever when it’s time to go home, but the alternative in this weather is either to freeze to death on the way to and/or from the show, or boil up until you evaporate during the show itself. And I wanted to see the show. I’d hate to have… mist it.

I think maybe I’m tired.




I didn’t get Doritos. Or help Mark with his Doritos. We’d just had Wok Box. It was good. Would go again. And will do so in about 7 hours or so, in fact. This concert review brought to you by Wok Box. “Wok Box: for when you get old and you can’t eat mozza sticks and chicken fingers every day because you are scared of your doctor.”

The bar, apart from Doritos, also had a drink called a PineApple Upside Down Cake (their spelling choices) which was pineapple juice, birthday cake vodka, and 7-Up. I couldn’t tell if I wanted one really badly or if I wanted to punch the guy who thought this up. I settled on “I don’t want to have to pee during the show.”

Our opener was Terra Lightfoot. After last year, I was leery of people named Lightfoot but she was really good. She occupies a similar part-country/part-rock space like Blue Rodeo. Do I know from song titles? Not at all, apart from a song called NFB, which I liked, but is accidentally not on her “limited edition” vinyl. She mentioned that the last time she played Regina was at O’Hanlon’s, so the Conexus Arts Centre is a big step up in terms of prominence, but I bet her show at O’Hanlon’s would have been killer.

I took a break from writing this to bus downtown and watch my work friends play with their toy helicopters. I picked Lightfoot’s album, Every Time My Mind Runs Wild, as the soundtrack. It was quite good; well worth checking out if it’s on your streaming service of choice. Or you could buy it. That’s still an option in places.

Unfortunately, this break of mine has now lasted eight days and counting. The Whitehorse and Headstones shows have come and gone and both have even been reviewed. I am apparently now far enough behind to bend the fabric of space and time. This was inevitable. Much like when I started this thing, I would like to be asleep, but no! I soldier on in hopes of sleeping tomorrow.

Blue Rodeo had, like, six lamps on the stage. This is important for you to know. Now you feel like you were there. I think this is like that VR stuff you hear about on blogs. An immersive experience. To complete the illusion, surround yourself with assholes. Seriously, this show had the loudest, most obnoxious drunks I’d encountered in some time. Oh, did they yell. They wanted to go into great detail about how much they love Blue Rodeo and how happy they were that Blue Rodeo was playing there. I kind of rolled my eyes at this, but secretly, I just wanted it to escalate to the point where there were five-minute audience monologues between songs. “THIS MESSAGE IS FOR ALL MEMBERS OF THE MUSICAL ENSEMBLE BLUE RODEO. ON BEHALF OF THE CITIZENS OF REGINA, SASKATCHEWAN, I WANT TO PROFESS MY PROFOUND GRATITUDE FOR YOUR APPEARANCE HERE THIS EVENING. AS YOU MAY KNOW, REGINA WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1882 AND WAS NAMED IN HONOUR OF QUEEN VICTORIA…”

The drunks also yelled song requests, to which Jim Cuddy said “Thanks. We wouldn’t have thought of playing that.” He responded to a request for Try by saying that they were, as hard as they could. I couldn’t tell if the band was amused or irritated by these outbursts. Maybe a bit of both?

I didn’t have any run-ins with the drunks personally. The closest I had was the lady to my right who was VERY excited for Blue Rodeo and for our great seats. She went “EEEEEEEEEE” at me when they played one of their hits, and I thought “man, when we get to the show-ending crowd singalong of Hasn’t Hit Me Yet, she’s going to LOSE HER MIND.” Which, pretty much, yeah.

So yeah, the show was a little bit predictable, but not entirely. I got my phone out to record what I thought would be said singalong, but they swerved me and brought out Terra Lightfoot and her band to join them on Lost Together first. Which is here:

See? Lamps.

So how was the show? Well, it was very good. This should not surprise. Blue Rodeo are very talented musicians and songwriters. You do not need me to tell you that. (You need me to tell you about their lamps.) But it wasn’t as good as this year’s Folk Festival show. It felt like both shows had the same amount of energy, only this time, it had to be spread twice as far. They would go long stretches playing only new material, which again was GOOD, but not what most people were there to hear. And things like the show-closing singalong were great the first time. Now they’re still fun, but an expected part of the show. But then putting those two points next to each other suggests that I don’t want to see stuff I’ve seen before but I also am not very interested in anything new. So what the hell do you do with that? Go to a show, have a good time, and maybe don’t think too hard about it.

Canuck Politics

Yup, I’m breaking my routine of just posting on Sundays, this week. This oughta make Boppin happy!

Anyway, I could have waited for Sunday with this but the election cards came in the mail and Mike sent me a cool link (recently) after James sent me a cool link (a while back) and it just seems like I should do this now.

I try to stay out of politics on this site. The KMA is about the music! But we have an election approaching, here in Canada (GO VOTE, EVERYONE!) and a couple of new songs have been interesting…

Mike sent me the link to this new Blue Rodeo song. I don’t think they like our current Prime Minister.

And James, a little while ago, sent me the link to this Geoff Berner song. Haha Geoff Berner is so awesome. Take that, Adam Cohen! Hee hee.

If you were to just go by these two tracks, you’d say there’s a movement to get rid of our sitting Prime minister. I dunno if that’s true, you’d have to go look at current polling to see where the voters are at – there are still a lot of people who blindly (or maybe not so blindly) vote Conservative in this country.

But I have this worry… You see, I’m worried that if our current PM gets into office AGAIN, we’ll have more of this horror show:

Hooboy that was bad.

Seriously, go vote, everyone!

Mail From Jedi Master Lebrain

Mail From Jedi Master Lebrain

subtitle: The AAAA Welcomes New Residents!

Ages ago, and because he is super-amazing, Mike said he was gonna hook me up with the Blue Rodeo live album, Just Like A Vacation. Wahoo! I sure do like me some Blue Rodeo, but I never owned the live album. Go figure, I’ve never seen them live either (oversiiiiight!).

Anyway, it took a little while, but it came to pass that I had something to send to him, too (you’ll hear that story shortly, I’m sure), so we mailed to each other on the same day. The Canada Post race was on! I won that race, but only by one day, and only because the central mail depot is nearMike‘s house, so of course it was easier to get things to him quickly. The rutted wagon trail to my town means it takes a bit longer for the mail delivery to reach us… not to mention the constant threat of highway robbery by bandits hiding in the woods… Ha. Still, it was only the very next day after Mike got his thing that I got… well, it was more than the Blue Rodeo set. A LOT MORE.

I came home yesterday morning to this:







Holy shit.

That does not look like a box that contains a single CD case of a Blue Rodeo concert, to me…


Did I miss a memo that said Christmas was being moved to May, this year? First, Geoff sent me awesomeness. And now Mike has overloaded my senses with more greatness?! The words ‘above and beyond,’ as regards recent events and this box (which named me Jedi Master Aaron) simply cannot do this justice. Check this out:





Let’s have a look at the contents, shall we…

1) Two CDs (well, technically 3):

a) Blue Rodeo – Just Like A Vacation (2CD). The reason for the mailing! That band always hits me just right. I cannot wait to dig into all of the goodness sure to be contained within this set! THANKS HEAPS, MIKE!

b) Alice Cooper – A Fistful Of Alice. It looks to be a Hits set (and will therefore be double awesome because 1) Alice, and 2) Alice’s Hits!). Excellent!! “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”

2) Two copied cassettes:

a) Samson – Head First / Shock Tactics. This is gonna be brilliant. I’ve never heard any Samson (I don’t think so, anyway). It even has a typed j-card with fancy fonts on the titles. Bring on the Bruce Bruce!

b) Hellacopters – Grande Rock. I’ve heard individual songs from these guys, here and there, but never owned an album. This’ll be great!!

3) Two books:

a) Robert Hilburn – Johnny Cash: The Life. How awesome is this? Oh my goodness. A pull-quote on the cover from Rolling Stone declares it “The ultimate Johnny Cash biography.” This is going to the top of the reading pile!

b) Brian Southall – The Beatles In 100 Objects: The Story Of The World’s Greatest Rock And Roll Band Through The Items They Used, Created And Inspired. Whoa. I didn’t even know this book existed. A quick flip through it reveals guitars, post cards, gig posters, a car… This is gonna be a huge, enlightening read! What a splendid idea for a book.

In Sum:

This is just incredible. Seriously. I am flabbergasted. The generosity that has been raining down on the KMA’s Ontario offices lately has been astounding. Mike. Mike Mike Mike. Thank you. Thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!

Grail List Additions: Aaron Edition

Hey folks, I’ve come across information about a few more CDs that would make me very very happy, but I cannot seem to find them online at all, or for crazy high prices. So, I’ll be adding these to the official Grail Search Master List.

Blue Rodeo – Live in Stratford January 13*, 2006 (2CD Instant Live)
Various – Borrowed Tunes: A Tribute To Neil Young
Various – Borrowed Tunes: A Tribute To Neil Young 2

* the January 14, 2006 show is available from the band’s web page, and I will have that one soon. It’s the show on the 13th that I need.


Blue Rodeo – A Merrie Christmas To You

A gift from my lovely wife for this year’s Christmas, I am a bit torn. I surely do love me some Blue Rodeo. But I don’t tend to like Christmas music. How will I do with this one?

First up is Jesus Christ, a Big Star song. I’m not an overly religious guy, but I can respect those who believe in this stuff. It’s an OK tune, nice to hear Greg Keelor’s voice, as usual. The tune plods a bit, but no matter. A decent opener.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas  is next, and the boys keep it soft and gentle. Simple arrangement, low-key instruments and a great piano part. Jim Cuddy’s voice stands out on top, and that’s a great thing, here.

Up next is Merle Haggard’s If We Make It Through December. Blue Rodeo was built to play this song, and it’s a pleasing country run through. Gotta love Merle.

We move on to Joni Mitchell’s River, with its Jingle Bells teaser intro. This really is a beautiful version. Pretty hard to muck up a Joni song, they’re built strong.

And now it’s my favourite-titled Christmas tune of all time, O Come All Ye Faithful. Yes, ye faithful, come as often as ye can! Give ‘er! Ahem. Anyway, they rock this hymn up, Blue Rodeo style. Cool enough but I’m not likely to play it much. I have lots of other songs of theirs built like this that don’t have a church hymn as the lyrics.

Now we’re hearing Paul Simon’s Getting Ready For Christmas Day. You should know, I generally dislike Paul Simon’s music. And it’s a Christmas song. That’s two heavy strikes against it. And how is it? It’s a fairly straight-on rock tune with lots of the BR instrumental accents, but it doesn’t change much so it’s a bit monotonous. It’s alright.

Now we have a remake of Glad To Be Alive (from Palace Of Gold). It sounds like… well, it sounds like Blue Rodeo. Imagine that! Very nice, it’s one I’d play again. I don’t own Palace Of Gold, but I surely should. [I’m actually missing several of their albums, so I need to get on that!]

And here is a new song written for this collection, Home To You This Christmas, and it’s Jim Cuddy in front of a mid-tempo BR song, with piano and steel guitar accents. This is actually quite awesome. Even the “doo doo doo doo” solo at the end, haha!

Gordon Lightfoot’s Song For A Winter’s Night has a special place in our lives, at our house. It was one of the songs that would help our daughter calm down when she was a baby and we had to put her in the car and drive her around to get her to sleep. Keelor makes a decent job of it. I can still only hear Gord’s version. The song is so GORD, a cover seems almost superfluous. Still, good on them for including it.

And last is Robbie Robertson’s Christmas Must Be Tonight, which they turn into a Blue Rodeo song, basically. Again with the Jesus in the manger lyrics, but there you go, that was Mr. Robertson’s choice.

In Sum:

The boys are stronger on their own stuff. Some of the covers are good, some just OK, but one still gets the sense they’re aware it’s a cover tune so they’re approaching it that way. Yes, they make them sound like themselves (how could they not), but it’s when they’re playing stuff they’ve written where they really stretch their legs and sound comfortable. I (personally) still have a hard time with the Christmas side of it. I just don’t go there with all those bible stories. Again, that’s my own lack of need for it, you’re all welcome to believe whatever you like.

This is a very good CD. Reading this back myself, I may have seemed a little critical of it, but as I prefaced this whole thing, I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas music to begin with, so that is a factor here. And you have to know by now that even fair-to-middling Blue Rodeo is ten times better than a lot of other music that’s out there. These guys are a superlative band, there’s no questioning their abilities as players. I liked this, but I’ll probably reach for other BR first.  Maybe next Christmas I’ll give it another spin!

Christmas 2014, Pt. 2

We spend the holidays at our parental units’ places, so we try to do Christmas a little early at our house. We chose yesterday morning to start the festivities!

And now it’s time to talk about my lovely gifts from my lovely wife!

First up, some fantabulous music.

neil and br

Yes, that’s the deluxe 2CD edition of the newest Neil Young album, Storytone! It looks awesome. The first CD contains 10 songs, some done with a 92 piece orchestra, choir, some with a 6o piece orchestra, and three with a big band. The second CD is those some 10 songs done solo by Neil. Gonna be AWESOME! I’ve really enjoyed how creative Neil has gotten with his releases, in the last few years. This one stands a good chance of being freaking fantastic.

And yep, that second one is the new Blue Rodeo release,  Christmas album. But Aaron, you say, you hate Christmas music! Generaly, yes. But I do love Blue Rodeo. Love love love Blue Rodeo. So they might get a pass, we’ll see! 🙂 My lovely wife said she feels like she oughta make this a tradition, knowing my feeling on Christmas music as she does. As you’ll likely recall, last year, she got me the brilliant Wynton Marsalis Christmas album (which came packed with Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, but we won’t talk about that). I do love me some Wynton Marsalis. And this year, Blue Rodeo… When I balked at the idea, she said not to worry, she’d try to make it only artists I can stand. Oh dear. What will Christmas 2015 hold? I can only begin to imagine! Anyway yeah! I got new Blue Rodeo!

Of course, you can expect reviews of both of these sets, in these pages, as soon as I’ve played them enough to feel like I’ve got a handle on them.

Hey Blue Rodeo! Which Is It?

One thing has always bugged me, Blue Rodeo.

Your classic I LOVE IT album is called Five Days In July.

Your song, the first track on that same album (and a BRILLIANT song it is), is called Five Days In MAY.

July. May.

LeBrain says they named it with July ‘cos that’s the month in which they recorded the album. James didn’t know, but guessed that maybe they needed to drop a syllable while recording the song? I don’t accept “artistic license” as an answer. That’s like saying “g-d works in mysterious ways,” which is a cop-out for not knowing, the religious equivalent of that old parental chesnut “go ask your mother.”

I have no guesses. But I know this conundrum has driven me crazy for the longest time.

So c’mon Blue Rodeo, which is it?

Blue Rodeo – Hasn’t Hit Me Yet

Last summer,

and I attended the Regina Folk Festival. Blue Rodeo was one of the headliners, and I was lucky enough to capture some of their set on video, which I subsequently uploaded to YouTube.

Tonight, my recording of Hasn’t Hit Me Yet received the following comment:

I am Canadian, my birthday is in December and I am a Officer in the Navy. During the 911 crisis my ship was in lake Ontario on a patrol. The actual night of 911 a friend and myself, both of whom play guitar, sat in the Wardroom (officers lounge) and played & sang this song over and over again as some strange, spontanious way of dealing with our feelings. I will never forget this song nor will I never forget that night.

I often say that I love the internet. Usually, I’m being facetious because I’ve just seen something hilarious that has to do with wieners or butts.

(I get lots of links from my friends – I’ve said many times when I shudder whenever I hear “I saw this and I thought of you” because it reveals some very sad truths about myself and how people perceive me. Not that they’re incorrect, and not that wieners and butts aren’t hilarious. But I digress.)

This time, though, I love the internet for real. I have no idea who this person is. From what little I know about him, I could narrow him down to  one of hundreds of people who are in the Canadian Navy and who have birthdays in December. This assumes I could get a list of Navy personnel with birthdays in December, which I’m guessing isn’t likely. For that matter, I’m making an assumption when I say “him.” I really don’t know. I’ll keep saying “him” because it’s easy and I’m lazy.

We’ve probably never been in the same city at the same time. Maybe not even the same province. I didn’t have him in mind when I saw the concert, recorded the video, or uploaded the video. By all rights, our paths should never have crossed. But here we are. I shared a slice of my life in the video. I got a story in return. And maybe I’m tired and overthinking things, but it just seems so cool that this is possible.

I guess the moral of the story is that I should bootleg more concert videos for YouTube.

Blue Rodeo – Small Miracles

When I think of Canadian music, there are a ton of artists that spring immediately to mind. All of them are well-known and loved within these far-flung borders, and Blue Rodeo is definitely in that list for me. They’ve been around long enough now, and had so many hits in this country that they are a part of the landscape, interwoven in all of our lives for good. And that’s awesome. I just hope we never take them for granted. 

I’ve heard people say that all of this band’s songs sound the same. Kinda country, kinda pop with an occasional rock song thrown in. Repeat. Yah, well, if you’re not listening closely enough that may be true for you. But spend some quality time with any of their records, Small Miracles is certainly no exception, and you’ll hear so much more going on. It’s in the arrangements, so skillfully constructed and executed. It’s in the interplay of the instruments, playful and purposeful all at once. It’s also in the vocals, shared between Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy and how each voice lends itself to each song perfectly, as required. Finally, the lyrics are telling the story of all of our lives in this great big lug of a country we call home, whether you admit it or not.

This is music about feeling, thinking and doing. It’s about being where we are in our lives right now and acknowledging that we’re just like everyone else in the most fundamental ways. We all have memories we cherish, times we wish we could change what we did or said, places we think we might rather be or lives we think we might rather be living. We all have to get up early in the morning to shovel snow because otherwise we’ll be late for work. We’re all a part of this country, and this music is an integral part of the soundtrack.

I heartily recommend this record. And you should own most (if not all) of their others by now too. Right? Right.

Track Listing:
01 So Far Away
02 This Town
03 Blue House
04 3 Hours Away
05 It Makes Me Wonder
06 Summer Girls
07 Together
08 Mystic River
09 Black Ribbon
10 C’mon
11 Small Miracles
12 Beautiful
13 Where I Was Before

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