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Blackie and the Rodeo Kings

South – 2014 (File Under Music)

Reviewed by Sam Gazdziak

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CDs by Blackie and the Rodeo Kings

Separately, Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson are solo artists, songwriters and producers of renown in Canada. When they bring all of their songs and influences together as Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, it makes for an enjoyable listen. The band's latest, "North," is no exception.

The songs on "North" are all largely acoustic, but that's about the only sonic similarity. The openers, "North" and "South" are contemporary folk, "Everything I Am" is a bluesy, mandolin-driven tune that sounds somewhere between The Steeldrivers and Robert Plant's recent solo work. "I'd Have to Be a Stone" is a sweetly sung soul ballad, while "Reinventing the Wheel of Love" sounds like it might have come from a Drifters album from the 1960s.

Even with so much genre-mixing and three lead singers, the principals are still able to tie everything together and make it a coherent, consistent-sounding record. While it comfortably fits into Americana (or Canadiana, in this case), "North" is a contender for year-end lists in any genre.

"North" represents Blackie and the Rodeo Kings' eighth album, impressive for any band and a major accomplishment for a super-group where everyone involved has careers to consider. The quality songs found here prove that nobody is holding back any Grade A material for their solo work.