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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Kings and Queens

I’ve been listening to an album released last year by a Canadian group, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, that doesn’t seem to have garnered much popularity in the US, as the album is ranked less than 100,000th on Amazon. But it’s worth a listen and I expect just a few more purchases will send it flying up the charts into the top 50,000.

All the songs on Kings and Queens are duets with prominent female American singers such as Lucinda Williams, Cassandra Wilson, and Emmylou Harris  -- the “Queens” of the title.   It’s a good idea because the “Kings” don’t have the greatest voices by themselves and the female vocals make the album work a lot better.

Some people compare the band’s work generally to The Band, which had a lot of Canadian ties itself.  I definitely heard this on the track “I’m Still Lovin’ You.” And the track “Heart A Mine” could have been pulled off “The Basement Tapes”.  But overall I see as many differences.  Lyrically, these songs are more intimate.  Robbie Robertson didn’t write too many songs about romantic relationships   Musically, I think they are more varied in style.  They remind me of the Jayhawks, and sometimes of Jackson Browne, both for tempo and a good dose of David Lindley-style guitar work.  There are also a couple of songs with stately tempos and heavy reverb that reminded me of Bill Frisell’s guitar work.  

Songs I especially liked were “Golden Sorrows” with Cassandra Wilson, “Black Sheep”, “My Town Has Moved Away” and “Got Me Covered” with Roseanne Cash.  “Shelter Me” features Miss Patti Scialfa joining the band for a good cover of a gospel-blues song by Buddy Miller; it sounded very much like a duet she might have done with her husband.

At least one of the band members, Colin Linden, has a solo career and on his album, From the Water, I enjoyed a Springsteen-like song “Between the Darkness and Light of Day” and the inscrutable “John Lennon in New Orleans”.