“We’re very sensitive men,” notes Tom Wilson, who with longtime compatriots Stephen Fearing and Colin Linden comprises Blackie and the Rodeo Kings’ singer-songwriter-guitarist triumvirate. “And when we’re not sensitive, we’re loud.”
The fabled roots-rockers are a virtual institution here in Canada, where they’ve been crafting bracing, catchy, introspective music for nearly two decades. The band’s eighth album, South (released in January) represents a fresh creative step for Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, while embodying the qualities of rootsy musical uplift and quirky lyrical depth that have long distinguished the ensemble’s varied output.
South represents both a consolidation of the qualities that have already endeared Blackie and the Rodeo Kings to fans, and a bold departure from the band’s established sound. The project first began to take shape while the group was touring the Canadian festival circuit in support of its last album Kings and Queens. On several occasions, inclement weather caused Fearing, Linden and Wilson to retreat to the shelter of the merch tent, where they would stage loose acoustic sets. These impromptu performances soon began to take on a sound and groove that was distinct from the five-piece electric sets for which Blackie was already renowned.
The experience of stripping down their sound had such a rejuvenating effect on the three frontmen that they decided to capture that vibe on record. They had initially planned to record a low-key, all-acoustic, vinyl-only release, with one original and one cover from each singer. But when they brought the material to Linden’s Nashville studio, they found their originals to be more exciting than the covers, and before long they’d accumulated an album’s worth of new original tunes.
South features Blackie’s most infectious and expressive batch of compositions to date.
“The way we sound when we’re sitting around in Colin’s kitchen and in dressing rooms playing music is how we wanted these songs presented,” Wilson says. “There’s a different musical conversation that takes place when you’re stripped to the wood and skins and strings, with the comfort and confidence of the moment when the world stops outside your kitchen window.”
If Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson have learned anything in the past 17 years, it’s that Blackie and the Rodeo Kings is a journey, not a destination. Their original plan to make one album and then go their separate ways has given way to an enduring musical rapport that’s grown deeper — and more integral to their lives — than they could have ever imagined.
“Blackie is there because we want it there, and when we don’t want it there it will be gone,” Wilson states. “Blackie enhances our lives, and gives us the kick in the ass that we need to rave on. And sometimes dinner gets burned, so it’s good to have three great cooks watching the oven.”
Linden is looking forward to getting on the road and bringing South to old and new fans alike.
“The prospect of playing for new people is exciting, and we want to play whenever and wherever we can,” he says.”
For more information about Blackie and the Rodeo Kings visit: http://blackieandtherodeokings.com
- Blackie and the Rodeo Kings will be performing at the Tidemark Theatre on Feb. 13. Members priced tickets are $37.50 plus applicable fees & taxes and can be purchased at the Box Office from Tuesday – Saturday between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.tidemarktheatre.com.