It really is the best of both worlds for the members of Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, and if you don't know about their status as roots giants in Canada, you aren't paying attention. Colin Linden grabbed a Grammy win for Best Americana album on the weekend for producing Keb' Mo's latest, Oklahoma. Just today (Tuesday), Tom Wilson was honoured with a Juno nomination for his latest release under his Lee Harvey Osmond persona, Mohawk. Plus he's a best-selling author. And if there was any justice, Stephen Fearing would have been nominated as well for his excellent The Unconquerable Past. But he's won before of course.
With all this success (and that's just scratching the surface of their many projects), that they still manage to drop it all every couple of years and put out a new Blackie album is a testament to the bond they've developed. The band is that rare example of three distinct personalities that manage to blend as well as highlight different genres; Linden the blues, Fearing for folk, Wilson the eccentric rocker, all adding up to roots music.
King Of This Town features some of their best group compositions. "North Star" is a dreamy harmony ballad, that lonesome search for the woman with the North Star in her eyes, a nod to Canada certainly. So is "Cold 100," a great driving song again featuring all three singing, 100 miles of road in the winter. Each member gets their own spotlight tracks as well, Linden on the title cut, his aching tenor always a mark of authenticity. Fearing handles matters of the adult heart, including the sadness in "Walking On Our Grave." Wilson digs back a bit to his Junkhouse days for the groove-rock number "Medicine Hat."
As always, the music sounds great, produced by Linden (who produces Grammy winners, you know), and featuring the redoubtable backing of de facto members John Dymond on bass and Gary Craig on drums. If I was asked to put together a perfect Canadian band, I don't know if I could do better than Blackie.