First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2007, Volume 14, #10
Written by John Metzger
Sat October 27, 2007, 08:10 AM CDT
Blue Rodeo has taken a few gambles in recent years, adding dollops of horns and strings to Palace of Gold and a dash of garage-rock to Are You Ready. Thereís a touch of experimentalism embedded within the DNA of its latest effort Small Miracles, too. For example, Together bears a seductive, bossa nova groove, while Black Ribbon is doused in psychedelic colorations. For the most part, however, the album is a back-to-basics affair that finds Blue Rodeo re-embracing the niche that it slowly but surely created for itself over the course of the past 20 years.
Once again, Blue Rodeo comfortably continues its trend of mining the music of the 1960s and the early 1970s for all itís worth, and The Beatles, The Byrds, and The Turtles, in particular, serve as its touchstones. Nevertheless, for all its borrowed refrains, Blue Rodeo successfully has developed a style that is identifiably its own. Not surprisingly, the group sounds most comfortable whenever it remains firmly planted within this amalgamated framework. From the sun-kissed refrains of Summer Girls to the jovial bounce of So Far Away to the galloping country-rock of Blue House, the outfit uses an array of jangly guitars, gently swinging cadences, and weepy pedal steel washes to envelop its irresistible melodies, none of which would have felt out of place during the heyday of AM radio.
Like many of Blue Rodeoís endeavors, however, Small Miracles overstays its welcome by faltering considerably during its latter half. From start to finish, the effort is a heartfelt rumination upon love and loss, but approaching the album from a conceptual perspective proves to be a double-edged sword. The result of Blue Rodeoís intense focus is that its lyrics are sharper, and the emotional core of its songs runs deeper. As Small Miracles progresses, however, the group increasingly pushes the themes and ideas that it is exploring, both lyrically and musically, far beyond their breaking points. It seems as if the harder the band tries to force its material to fit its formula, the more that the set becomes bogged down. Granted, there are a few solid tunes tucked near its conclusion ó namely Mystic River and Címon ó but once Blue Rodeo loses its grasp on the organic ebb and flow of its tale, the entire outing falls apart. Itís a shame, really, because the opening half of Small Miracles stands as some of the finest and most cohesive material that Blue Rodeo ever has made.
Small Miracles is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box