Release Date: Jan 14, 2014
Record label: File Under Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Respected veterans in Canada, practically unknown in the States, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (fans call them BARK) nonetheless proudly carry the Americana torch initially lit by fellow Canadians the Band. Originally formed in 1996 as a one-off side project for successful singer/songwriters Tom Wilson, Stephen Fearing and Colin Linden to collaborate as a tribute to one of their influences Willie P. Bennett, the threesome have proven so popular that seven albums and 17 years later they have become one of Canada’s premier roots outfits.
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings' eighth album sounds relaxed and real. The folk rock supergroup (fronted in turn by Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson) are onto something good. They got the idea to make a more acoustic album while jamming at festival merch tents. Though they've dropped electric guitar (there are lots of sliding dobro and mandolin flourishes filling in), they've maintained their rhythm section, so you can still dance to this record.
On this, their eighth album, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings head back to basics. As the liner notes explain, South was originally envisaged as an all-acoustic trio record that'd strongly feature cover songs. That vision mutated with the addition of the regular BARK rhythm section (John Dymond and Gary Craig) and a couple of guest players, but South retains a far more minimalist feel than their previous album, 2011's star-studded Kings and Queens.This setting again reminds us of the individual strengths of Tom Wilson, Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing as songwriters and singers, while Linden's in-demand skills as a producer and instrumentalist come to the fore again here.
Canadian roots outfit Blackie and the Rodeo Kings play an acoustic form of country-tinged Americana heavily infused with warm vocals, which are attributed to co-guitarists Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden, and Tom Wilson. The group has released several albums since its 1999 debut Kings of Love; new album South arrives sporting a somewhat starker, more stripped-down sound than previously heard on such albums as 2012’s Kings and Queens and 2008’s Swinging From the Chains of Love. South leads off with a pair of tracks, “North” and “South”, which both use a gently loping bass to propel the tune.