Blue Rodeo

The Things We Left Behind

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The title, and even format, of this double set may lead longtime Blue Rodeo fans to believe the band has cleaned out its closet of B-sides and rarities after nearly 23 years. That's not the case, though, as this is yet another superior album of new folk-country-Americana tunes from the pens of Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy. Since the total time of the CDs is a little more than can fit on a single disc, the package seems to be a statement of old-school double album intent. It comes just over two years after the group's previous studio recording and finds both singing/songwriting frontmen still at the top of their games. As usual, Cuddy's shinier pop-country offsets Keelor's more wired, moody style. The songs don't seem to be collaborations even though, like Lennon and McCartney, they take joint credit. The band's core quintet is missing a keyboard player -- guests fill in -- which is odd considering how vital that instrument is to Blue Rodeo's sweeping sound. Keelor and Cuddy seldom sing harmonies on songs the other takes lead on, calling on another outsider, Wayne Petti, to add his vocal talents. Keelor, often the Lennon to Cuddy's McCartney, also channels George Harrison on "Don't Let the Darkness in Your Head." Additionally, his ominous title track provides an unusually bleak opening to disc one. It's lightened, at least musically, by Cuddy's chugging, easy-rolling "One More Night," whose lyrics tell the disturbing story of a small-town murder. Many of the words speak of lost love, unfulfilled dreams, missed life connections, and broken promises, traditionally Blue Rodeo concepts, all married to hooky if sometimes winding melodies. Despite the brevity of their combined times, the objective seems for the platters to be stand-alone projects joined in one package. Both have their emotional epicenters, such as the first CD's nine-minute "Million Miles" and the second's powerful ten-minute closer, "Venus Rising." Those are Keelor-penned and the latter could eventually become a Blue Rodeo catalog highlight in the vein of "Lost Together." With 16 selections, none superfluous, Blue Rodeo continue their long and impressive run as Canada's most gifted roots band.

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