Kim Deschamps

REVIEW: Blue Rodeo – Daze In America (1995 promo EP)

BLUE RODEO – Daze In America (1995 Discovery Records promo CD)

Blue Rodeo have a number of promo-only releases of great value to fans.  There’s the The Live CFNY Concert for one.  “Diamonds in the Rough” / Demos and Other Stuff….. is another.  Perhaps the most superb of them was 1995’s Daze In America CD, including five live songs but never released to retail on any Blue Rodeo album or single.

The sextet were riding high with the triumphant Five Days In July album, a surprise hit recorded spontaneously in…well, five days.  An utter masterpiece, Five Days in July produced numerous classics that endured in setlists for decades.  “Head Over Heels” was one such track, an upbeat Jim Cuddy stomper with harmonica, mandolin, and the kitchen sink.  It’s the kind of Blue Rodeo track that gets people off their seats.  The version here is the studio cut, which is logical since it was one of the big singles they were promoting at the time.

“Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” is live in Omaha, and it emanates energy from the crowd.  “This ain’t nothing new to me, it’s just like going home,” sings Greg Keelor.  “It’s kinda like those sunsets that leave you feeling so stoned…”  Crowd roars.  Live, Jim Cuddy’s harmony line is more prominent.  Blue Rodeo’s best song, hands down.  And check out Bazil Donovan’s lyrical walking basslines and tell me he isn’t one of the best bass players in this great nation of ours!  Yes, “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” is a freakin’ gem, where every facet matters, and elevates the song further.

Jim’s bluest ballad, “Bad Timing” is received by quiet punctuated with screams.  If you see Blue Rodeo live, then you know this is a common reaction to Cuddy’s crooning, a country heartthrob if there ever was one.  “Bad Timing” is sentimental, beautiful, and soothing in its own pain.  The ultimate breakup song.  It’s just bad timing, that’s all.

Casino‘s “Til I Am Myself Again” brings us back to one of those upbeat Jim songs that people love to dance to.  Being seated during this song at a Blue Rodeo concert is not optional.  Often a set opener, this one kicks!  Laying back a bit, “Rain Down on Me” was another big hit, this time from Lost Together.  The size of the chorus, a big huge cumulus, is one reason why it is so beloved.  The pedal steel guitar solo by Kim Deschamps is outstanding.  Then “Last To Know” is another Jim ballad, but with a monolithic chorus.

Ex-Andy Curran drummer Glenn Milchem is all over “Trust Yourself”, a real bolder-buster of a tune.  It was always a bit of a jam, but live it just explodes from all its bounds.   Then it descends in a two minute outro of solos and jamming.  Blue Rodeo are one of the best live bands you’ll ever see, and this track shows why.

A great promo EP, somewhat rare, but worth the extra few bucks for these rare recordings.

5/5 stars

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.