REVIEW: Greg Keelor – “Pine Ridge” (1996)

GREG KEELOR – “Pine Ridge” (1996, from Pine Ridge: Songs for Leonard Peltier)

Blue Rodeo are taking some heat these days for their stance on indigenous rights.  A small group of fans are abandoning the band for (quote-unquote) “going political”, but politics is nothing new for this Canadian institution.  In 2015, they recorded “Stealin’ All My Dreams” just in time for the 2015 Canadian election.  (The mp3 file had a tag reminding fans to vote!)  It was pretty clear from the song where they stood on the issues.  Further back, in 1996, they participated in Pine Ridge, a benefit CD for Leonard Peltier.  It’s a long story that has resulted in at least three movies, a U2 song, and support from Rage Against the Machine.  Greg Keeler’s contribution to the Pine Ridge CD is one of the strongest songs of his entire career.

The track may be credited solely to Greg Keelor, but if you look at the players, it’s actually Blue Rodeo.  Jim Cuddy, Bazil Donovan, Glenn Milchem, James Gray, Kim Deschamps…the gang’s all there, the classic Five Days in July lineup.  So it’s a Blue Rodeo song in every way but in name.  At 10 minutes in length, it is unprecedented in complexity for this great band.  And they wore their politics directly on their sleeves.

The government man hate the colour of your skin and your dogshined reservation,
No reasons why those two FBI were on Oglala land chasing that red van,
And the FBI admit Leonard Peltier did not commit the killings that have
Kept him 20 years in prison.

The track runs the gamut from quiet, contemplative picking to soulful and dramatic choruses, to a funky mid-section, and a huge ending.  It’s as epic as Blue Rodeo get.  It tugs at the soul, and stimulates the mind.  It’s a protest song in the grandest tradition, right out of 1969.  And nobody can flat-out play like Blue Rodeo.  Pedal steel, dobro, organ…it’s all here.  And it’s massive.

Stay political, Greg.  Regardless of where you fall on the current situation in Canada (it ain’t pretty), we can all agree that the world is richer for all the great protest songs of the past.  Here is another one, now an oldie itself.

5/5 stars

The Pine Ridge CD also features performances by The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy, ex-Blue Rodeo keyboardist Bob Wiseman, Jane Sibbery, Michael Ondaatje, Ashley MacIsaac, Sarah McLachlan, the Skydiggers and many more.  Worth the investment.



      1. Thanks for that, I do see a similar thing there as here in the UK where Conservative types seem to be branding the protesters “Privileged white middle class kids with nothing better to do.” I agree, we need to respect all cultures!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I think surely there can be a compromise. There are alternative routes for the pipelines.

          I have said this before and it’s a fact. Our native cultures will go extinct. There are already many exinct languages and cultures. In the north there are communities where only one living individual can speak the native language. We can’t allow these cultures to go exinct.

          Liked by 2 people

        1. We did the same thing with language to our native kids. They were taken from their homes to residential schools and forced to stop speaking their old languages.

          Funny how this is a universal problem isn’t it.

          Liked by 1 person

        1. If you want to control a culture, you impose your language upon them – it is such a fundamental mechanism of control, just check out the British empire …

          Really interesting stuff.

          Liked by 2 people

  1. When I see the name Bazil Donavan I think bad ass as he got popped for weed back in the late 80s and the press had a field day with it which was brutal. Poor dude but kudos to him he just kept on doing what he’s doing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He’s a monster bass player! Him and Greg are like Canada’s Grateful Dead, the fans knew what they were up to. Seems funny in hindsight but yeah, I sure remember seeing those embarrassing photos of him being stopped by the cops!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. even lamer DLR stock had already pummeled by that point.
          Read somewhere KISS ditched the painter guy as the opener of this latest round ogf dates as tix were lagging in some markets.
          Hello Dave to the tour..

          Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s very disappointing. You like to think that a band and their fans are like a tribe with one heart. It is not the case. Where I spent my childhood at the cottage, I learned to respect the local tribes. Yes we saw the poverty, we saw the alcohol, and it wasn’t pretty. But we also knew what this land was like before my ancestors arrived. How the natives never wasted and their forests were pristine. How they had a deep respect for the land. And although it wasn’t spelled out for us, it wasn’t hard to come to the conclusion that it was the new settlers that did this to them. As it happens I later made friends with some Ojibwe girls, and they do some really beautiful art up there let me tell you.

      Anyway: What really baffles me is this. Blue Rodeo’s most popular album is Lost Together. The very first song, “Fools Like You”, features the hook, “Stop stealin’ the Indian land.” HOW THE FUCK DO YOU MISS THIS MESSAGE DATING BACK TO THEIR 1992 ALBUM!??? Opening track!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, no-one missed that. Perhaps it’s just the climate over the last few years? More artists speaking out about injustice and suchlike… means the ignorant and those who lean to the right are more aware that artists they like think people of that persuasion aren’t very nice.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I always thought that technology would bring us together. It’s separating us further. Humanity is still separated into tiny little tribes fighting each other for scraps. I don’t know why we can’t unite as one. Maybe we need a common enemy. Let’s hope the Klingons arrive soon.


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