Like a comic actor who longs for a serious role every now and then, Blue Rodeo sought the dark side of the human psyche for its Discovery/Warner debut album, “Nowhere To Here.”
The Canadian country-drenched rock band’s sixth album is a stark contrast from the upbeat “Five Days In July” (1993).
“I personally wanted to write songs that were different from the last album,” singer-guitarist Jim Cuddy said recently. “The ones on the last record were reassuring and it was all about sunshine. This record definitely has a little darkness in it. The approach was different. It’s a little more jarring just in the note selections.”
What was the cause of this upheaval?
“It was a reflection of the mood we got in making it,” Cuddy said, with a laugh. “The making of it, everybody was pretty fragile. It was exhausting. I think it’s a little more exhausting to deal with the dark side of things. You get more soul-weary.”
That’s not to say that Blue Rodeo wasn’t pleased with “Five Days In July.” On the contrary. Cuddy said the Toronto-based sextet goes from pole to pole with each record, desperately trying to avoid repeating themselves.
” ‘Five Days In July’ was very bright and positive, and it was in the summer,” Cuddy said. “And now all of a sudden we’re in the winter and we were cooped up in this place and we knew we had to get a little deeper into ourselves to get a record written that was going to be more satisfying.
“It just ended up being a more difficult birth, just harder to get out, and when it got out, it was about subjects that were not all full of reassurances and strengthening. They were about vulnerable, fragile, scary things, things you have to live with.”
Blue Rodeo builds a tight, almost psychedelic country-rock weave around such somber but beautiful tracks as “Save Myself,” “Brown-Eyed Dog” and “Girl In Green.” Sarah McLachlan provides backup vocals on all three cuts. Despite the solemn tone, the album holds true to Blue Rodeo’s heartland quality.
Only now, months after finishing the album, Cuddy said he is just beginning to understand what they did.
“First of all, when we finished it, I didn’t want to listen to it again,” he said. “I haven’t listened to it that much. Just playing the songs and realizing how much we have developed, how much we got out of the songs, I guess that was different than we had done on other records.”
In the mid-’80s, Blue Rodeo rose from the club scene on Toronto’s Queen Street, the same spot where k.d. lang, the Cowboy Junkies and the Jeff Healey Band paid their dues. Their debut album, “Outskirts,” was a multiplatinum hit in Canada and earned them the Juno Award for best group, the first of three in five years. Subsequent albums fared just as well.
Across the border, big-time success has eluded them.
“We’re one of those endangered special-interest groups in the United States,” Cuddy said, laughing. “In the last couple of years, we feel like we’ve established an audience. It’s a small audience, but we have actually made a connection with an audience that has more than one of our records and comes out to see us on a regular basis. I guess we feel satisfied that we’ve actually made that step in America.
“We come down and we do clubs, usually 300, 400, 500 people. Where it goes from there, I don’t know. It takes us back to when we started as a band in Canada. Honestly, it’s a little break from Canada, where there’s a lot of pressure on us.
“When we come to the states, we have the same kind of freedom we had when we first started out in Toronto. We can play whatever we want on any given night, and we really have to concentrate to play well together as a band. It’s a very small space, usually, and if you play like you’re a big rock star and you’re all in your own world, you’ll sound like s—. And people will not respond.
“That’s not what we’re about.”
BWF (before we forget): Check them out on the Web @ www.bluerodeo.com. … The Blue Rodeo album discography – “Outskirts” (1987); “Diamond Mine” (1988); “Casino” (1991); “Lost Together” (1992); “Five Days In July” (1993); “Nowhere To Here” (1995); “Tremelo” (1997).
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