Blue Rodeo’s thirteenth studio album, “In Our Nature” which drops next week (Oct 29) is like your favourite old comfy couch. It is familiar and enjoyable.
I approached this album with a bit of trepidation. I have been less than thrilled with the band’s output since 2005’s “Are You Ready”. There were times I thought Jim & Greg and either lost their magic touch or were resting on their laurels. Blue Rodeo’s first half dozen albums are amazing and masterpieces in the fabric of Canadian music. It has been a long time since they put out tunes that rival “Rose Coloured Glasses”, “Try”, “Lost Together” or “Trust Yourself”. But in listening to this new disc, I realised that Blue Rodeo is not the band now that they were back in their radio heyday. And that is not a bad thing. They have evolved which given age and numerous line-up changes is inevitable. They are, and always will be, roots-rock Canadiana. It is just now they are more roots and then they were more rock.
Their albums since “Are You Ready” (inclusive) have been much more laid back and mature. They have found a different groove then their earlier years. So, very much in the vein of the last three albums, “In Our Nature” has a very Canadian down-home relaxed feel that we can all relate to. If it wasn’t the start of the cold winter, I can very much see people enjoying this album on the back porch, watching the sunset and enjoying a beer. Very Canadian and very Blue Rodeo.
Though Blue Rodeo owns a state-of-the-art studio in Toronto, The Woodshed, they recorded this album at Greg’s farm near Port Hope ON where they recorded the much-loved “Five Days In July”. The other noticeable change this time out is the addition of long-time collaborator, Colin Crips, as the seventh official member of the band. Colin has been touring with BR for the last year and a half as the solution to Greg’s hearing problems. Because of Greg’s sensitivity to loud noises he long longer plays electric guitar so Colin was brought in to fill in on stage and now of the record too. He previously played with the Jim Cuddy Band and replaced Greg in Crash Vegas 20+ years ago.
At fourteen tracks the album clocks in around sixty minutes which in my books is fantastic! That’s value for your money. Nothing bothers me more than short albums (right Bryan LOL). I won’t go track by track so as not to rob you of the enjoyment of discovery but I will mention a few standouts. “New Morning Sun” is the lead single and in my opinion there are better choices as this song is very formula Jim. It sounds like a lot of other Jim songs. It is like he put the standard pieces together in the standard order to get the job done. Judge for yourself.
My choice for the first single, if it were up to me but sadly it is not, would have been Greg’s “Never Too Late”. Best track on the album, hands down. That song is Greg at his song writting best of late. It has a very vintage Blue Rodeo feel to me and I think could have fit quite well into an album like “Lost Together”. Tell me I’m wrong, I dare you. (song starts are the 2min mark in the video below)
If you prefer Greg’s song writing over Jim’s (which I do) then you will love “Wondering”. That track is five minutes of beautiful melodic bliss. The highlight on the album from Jim’s pen is “Made Your Mind Up”. Much in the vein of “After The Rain” from 1990’s “Casino” this track builds from a solitary piano to a full blown band/guitar driven power ballad. As the album winds down, the penultimate track “Tara’s Blues” is an unexpected surprise. It is a typical moody Greg piece highlighted by tight vocal harmonies and flavored with some beautiful pedal steel courtesy of my pal Bob Egan.
So if you like Blue Rodeo, you will like this album especially if you are a fan of their later work. If you are new to Blue Rodeo, then you are in for an hour of music that resonates with the essence of being Canadian. They defined the genre in this country and continue to roll along in that familiar roots-y groove that have been their hallmark for the last decade. Sit back in that old favourite comfy couch and enjoy. Also, buy the album when it comes out on October 29.