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Blackie & the Rodeo Kings Biography

Last updated: 06/12/2004 03:54:46 AM

the band - is a labour of love for Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson.

In 1996 their debut album was released to critical acclaim.The first album, High or Hurtin', brought 14+ Willie originals to an appreciative audience. The musicianship is superb, the vocals right on, and the lyrics are sublime.

All three continued their successful solo careers garnering numerous individual awards and nominations. The chemistry, which first brought the trio together, drew them back in 1999 for Kings of Love, a double album of originals and covers, folk,rock, ballads, even surf instrumental : an amazing achievement from Colin, Tom and Stephen which won the JUNO in the Best Roots & Traditonal Album, Group category.

BARK marks the highly anticipated return of the Juno Award-winning group Blackie & the Rodeo Kings.

This newest effort finds the trio maturing musically, featuring some of the best material that these three talented songwriters have ever put to disc.

Recorded in the winter of 2003, B&RK captures the raw energy of the band, offering the listener a deep well of great songs and sounds that they can go back to again and again. From the rambling Honky Tonk twang of "Swinging From the Chains of Love", to the world weariness of the gritty first single "Stoned", to the unabashed and infectious rock n' roll of "Had Enough of You Today".

BARK features 12 original songs, as well as covers of Willie P. Bennett's "Willie’s Diamond Joe" and Bruce Cockburn's "Tie Me at the Crossroads". The album highlights the band's expert ability to meld and switch between musical styles and influences, like the bluesy swagger of "Water or Gasoline", to the bittersweet "If I Catch You Crying", a heartfelt affirmation of friendship and healing during life's heartaches.

Since 1999, Stephen Fearing has released two Juno-nominated albums and toured extensively throughout North America. So Many Miles captured the passionate singer-songwriter during one of his trademark intimate and intense live performances, garnering him praise from critics and fans alike. Stephen's soulful lyrics, distinct vocals and expert guitar playing are brought to the fore on the live album, leaving a lasting and powerful impression of his reach as an artist.

Fearing soon followed it up with 2002's That's How I Walk, which was released in the US on Rounder records, where it hit the Top 30 on the national Americana chart. That's How I Walk showcased Stephen's newfound love of co-writing, cultivated in Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, as he collaborated with the likes of Brian den Hertog, Junkhouse's Colin Cripps, Ian Thornley of Big Wreck, and of course, Tom Wilson. Produced again with Colin Linden, and this time with full accompaniment, the album is a blend of streetwise edge and evocative soul-searching, full of Stephen's usual passionate and deep musings on the full spectrum of human experience.

Colin Linden has also been a busy man since 1999, moonlighting as a musician, a songwriter and a producer to continued success and acclaim. As a performer Colin released a 25-year retrospective of his work Sad & Beautiful World, through Sony Music in 2000 and his eighth solo album Big Mouth in 2002. Colin also contributed his skills on tour with many of the musicians from the soundtrack to the Coen brothers' landmark bluegrass opus O Brother Where Art Thou, including performing at the "Down From the Mountain" concert at the Ryman Auditorium, which was eventually released as a film. His connection to the Coen brothers continues, as he is set to make his acting debut, as a guitar-playing priest in their upcoming film Intolerably Cruel.

As a producer, Colin has added several records to his already lengthy resume, helming two albums for Bruce Cockburn (Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu 1999,You've Never Seen Everything 2003), two for Stephen Fearing (So Many Miles 2000, That's How I Walk 2002), one for Sue Foley (Love Comin' Down 2000), one for Ray Bonneville, as well as several tracks for Lucinda Williams. His tireless efforts paid off as Colin received many award nominations, and a Juno for Big Mouth, as well as four Maple Blues awards and a prestigious Toronto Arts Award for music.

Since 1999, the irrepressible Tom Wilson has been steadily building his solo career on the strength of Planet Love, an eclectic mix of styles and moods, which was met with accolades and rave reviews. The main single "Dig It" reached number 11 on the Canadian rock charts. It was also featured in a Volvo commercial and in the Tim Allen movie Joe Somebody. His subsequent North American tour found Tom with many headlining gigs and high profile opening spots for Ron Sexsmith, Stompin' Tom, Andy Stochansky, David Gray, and the late, great Joe Strummer. Always entertaining, always energetic, Tom's mix of folk song-writing sensibilities, rock aesthetics and punk attitude struck a deep chord with fans old and new.

Tom’s music has been recorded by artists as diverse as Mavis Staples, Billy Ray Cyrus, Colin James, Adam Gregory, Edwin, as well as his Blackie band mates. In 2002, Tom also celebrated the 10-year anniversary of his former band Junkhouse with the release of Rounders: The Best of Junkhouse. The Hamiltonians filled the retrospective with 19 choice cuts, featuring their best loved songs, unreleased material and cover tunes.

Since Kings of Love, Stephen, Colin and Tom have often found themselves writing songs that could only be expressed through the Blackie & the Rodeo Kings medium. It was this material and a love for collaboration with each other that brought them together for a third time. As they began work on B&RK, they found that Blackie meant more to them than a simple and fun way to pay tribute to the music that they loved.

An example of this evolution is the song "Jackie Washington." Colin Linden had originally planned on putting together a number of covers of Canadian guitar legend Jackie Washington's work. Instead, Colin wrote "Jackie Washington" as a tribute and knew his Blackie bandmates would be the best men to help him record it.

While High or Hurtin' and Kings of Love were full of cover tunes, BARK is comprised mostly of original material. The change reflects this shift for the group, and they find themselves further defining the sound and soul of Blackie. B&RK mixes the many obvious strengths and diversities of these musicians to forge an entertaining and powerful record. Featured musicians include Richard Bell (the Band), Gary Craig (Anne Murray, Jann Arden) and John Dymond (Bruce Cockburn, Natalie MacMaster).


Stephen:We got together when I first moved to Ontario from British Columbia. I phoned up Colin Linden because I had this idea in the back of my head: to record a tribute album to Willie P. Bennett. Willie P. Bennett is a contemporary of Bruce Cockburn and Stan Rogers and those guys; he’s very unknown even in Canada, and yet his work is known to a certain degree.

Willie is in Fred Eaglesmith’s band and has been for years. But he is a great songwriter in his own right and probably has influenced Fred as much as anyone. We felt that his music was underappreciated. It was at a time—seven or eight years ago—when the tribute album was at its height. We didn’t want to do a tribute record that was like all the others, where you get 12 artists together to do 12 songs. We wanted to be a cover band that did Willie P. Bennett. Colin felt that we needed one more voice to adequately cover the material, which gives you a sense of the breadth of Willie’s stuff, and Tom came in. What started as a one-off deal—make an album of Willie’s music and that’s it, no touring plans, nothing—just grew and grew and grew. The chemistry between the three of us was very strong.

We named the band after one of Willie’s songs—“Blackie and the Rodeo King”—and the sound we make comes from congregating around his music, which is hard to pigeonhole. It is quintessentially Ontario music, in the same way that you can identify singer-songwriter stuff from Texas. It’s very Canadian, because it’s not country only and it’s not folk only but it taps into all these things.