BLUE RODEO – 1000 Arms (2016 Warner)
It’s hard keeping up with Blue Rodeo! They’re always working, either as a band or on their own projects. They’ve released new albums consistently without gaps. That’s 15 studio albums (one of them a double) spanning 30 years. Countless amazing songs…but mathematically their growth have kept me from growing with their new music as much as the old. There are only so many hours in a day, and days in a week, and it’s hard to imagine the day that 1000 Arms will surpass Five Days in July for number of spins. It’s inevitable that when listening to newer Blue Rodeo music, it doesn’t feel as close to you as the early stuff.
Blue Rodeo maintain their knack for incredible songs and playing on 1000 Arms. Greg Keelor conjures up the same old, not-quite-broken spirits as before. “Nothing I ever do is good for you, will I ever realize? You’re never satisfied.” Biting lyrics, chiming mandolin and perfect Cuddy/Keelor harmonies combine to make the opener “Hard to Remember” a future classic. Jim Cuddy takes the wheel next on an upbeat number called “I Can’t Hide My Feelings Anymore”. When has Jim ever hid his feelings? Not the point — another great tune.
The disc is loaded with great tunes. “Jimmy Fall Down” (vocals: Keelor) maintains the bright, upbeat direction. Things don’t slow down until track 4, “Long Hard Life”. It’s quieter but no less enjoyable. It’s only a temporary reprieve, as “Rabbit’s Foot” brings a classic guitar vibe. The title track is old style Cuddy storytelling. Greg’s penchant for slow and dramatic music is carried on by “Dust to Gold”. There is even sly humour on “Superstar”, something you don’t always get with a Blue Rodeo album. “Start a business, organics door to door, ’cause nobody buys records here anymore.”
We could go on and continue to describe this batch of new tunes, but rest assured there are no duds. (Do stay tuned for a heavy exotic turn on closing track “The Flame”.) I hope that, over time, these songs become as much a part of me as the old tunes. There’s little difference in terms of quality, and the musicianship is always tops. Colin Cripps would be responsible for many of the tasteful guitar solos, but 1000 Arms is the last Blue Rodeo album to feature mandolin player (and Kitchener, Ontario resident) Bob Egan. (That’s why he’s front and center of the band photo.) Bob departed after making this one, and he went out in great style.