Blackie & the Rodeo Kings

Bark

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Blackie & the Rodeo Kings are a Canadian songwriter's "supergroup," comprised of Colin Linden (who doubles as a guitarist in Bruce Cockburn's band), Stephen Fearing, and Tom Wilson. They may have begun as a garage band to record and perform the songs of obscure Canadian outsider songwriter Willie P. Bennett, but they've evolved into a unit that is akin to the legendary Rockpile in their approach to rootsy, rollicking, hooky pop/rock and country. Bark kicks off with Fearing and Wilson's "Swinging from the Chains of Love," a skittering pub rock anthem that contains elements of skiffle, honky tonk, and powerhouse rockabilly in its overdriven shuffle. Likewise, in the shimmering country-rock of "Stoned," the trio digs deep into a clich├ęd state of mind to express a deeper truth: "These are the days worth livin' let them all bleed down/Everything's forgiven...." And in the folksy country of "Born to Be a Traveler," the ringing guitars careening in slow motion across the body of the tune bring Fearing's voice to the fore in the weariest, post-three-a.m. warble to be put on tape in a long while. Linden's "Jackie Washington" digs back into the pub rock mine and struts with reckless abandon and killer vocal harmonies. There are a couple of covers on the set as well. First is Bennett's mournful "Willie's Diamond Joe," which reads the blues through Hank Williams, John Fogerty, and Richard Thompson with a smoking slide solo by Linden. Next is a rollicking garage band read of Cockburn's "Tie Me at the Crossroads," which will hopefully retire the author's version. Produced by Linden, Bark is the garage band record of the year so far and reveals a band coming into its own with authority, reckless abandon, and a wicked rock & roll grin.

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