Blackie and the Rodeo Kings
First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2005, Volume 12, #8
Written by T.J. Simon
In the Spring of 2005, the contents of President George W. Bush’s iPod were released to the White House press pool, and the results were pretty interesting. The artists appearing on "iPod One" displayed a well-chosen variety of boomer-friendly roots rock, classic country, and Americana artists including George Jones, Alejandro Escovedo, John Hiatt, and John Fogerty, although in the latter case, Fortunate Son presumably was omitted.
The presidentially endorsed MP3s also contained music from an obscure Canadian alternative country outfit known as Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and the success of the group’s third album, which takes its acronym as its moniker, can be attributed to its three capable and distinctive lead singers, who also share songwriting duties. When Tom Wilson is at the helm, his vocals sound like Tom Petty, and his best contribution is the Rockpile-inspired album opener Swinging from the Chains of Love — a track that was highlighted on the Presidential Playlist. On Colin Linden’s contributions to BARK, he evokes the sound of Lyle Lovett, albeit with a tendency to belt his lyrics a bit too forcefully. Linden’s songs are inevitably the weakest on the disc with the exception of the enjoyable Willie’s Diamond Joe.
The crown jewel of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings' songwriting triad is Stephen Fearing whose voice mimics a countrified Warren Zevon on the jangly You’re So Easy to Love as well as on the compelling If I Catch You Cryin’. Fearing is also able to evoke the sounds of Richard Thompson and Pete Townshend on the slow-tempo album highlight Song on the Radio. Another track showcasing Fearing’s vocals that is worthy of attention is the cover of Bruce Cockburn’s Tie Me at the Crossroads, which rocks like the Waco Brothers cross-pollinated with Social Distortion.
Overall, BARK is a spotty effort with too many dead spaces in the album’s middle (Stoned, Lock All the Doors, Had Enough of You Today, Born to Be a Traveler), but the handful of tracks at the beginning and end of the disc are, without exception, worth hearing. Fans of John Hiatt’s brand of roots-and-blues rock will find themselves generally pleased with this effort — regardless of their political affiliation. ½
BARK is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box