Review: Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, “King Of This Town”

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, King of This Town

If you told me that you’d be providing me with the following names to collaborate with on my next recording, I’d say, “Thank you very much, we’ve got a hit record!”  “King Of This Town,” the most recent release from the iconic band, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, receives contributions from songwriters Janice Powers (Colin Linden’s wife), Thompson Wilson (Tom’s son) and Hawksley Workman. Joining long time band-members John Dymond (bass guitar) and Gary Craig (percussion) in the studio are Kenneth Pearson (keyboards), and renowned multi-instrumentalist Jim Hoke, amounting to a sizzling array of talent.  Add another dimension with some stunning gospel backing vocals from The McCrary Sisters (“Hard Road”) and you might think that this is enough to blow the roof off!  Well, we’re missing one thing: enter the three Kings, Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing, and Tom Wilson.  Blackie & The Rodeo Kings (BARK) have returned.

It was 25 years ago when BARK first collaborated to record a tribute album to popular Canadian singer-songwriter Willie P. Bennett, and “King Of This Town” is their tenth album since that time. Numerous Juno Award nominations over the years, and a Juno Award for Best Roots-Traditional Album in 2000 tells you just how highly regarded this band are, and lest we forget to mention all of their individual accolades and awards. Yes this is a band that kicks serious ass.

Produced by Colin Linden, each of the three co-founders bring their own unique flair to the table.  Colin, with his blues and signature slide guitar; Tom, with his swampy, rocky-roots feel; and Stephen, with his folk-roots-Americana mix which all blend so wonderfully well together.  Just listen to the opening track, “Cold 100,” if you are in any doubt of how well this ensemble works together. It has everything that BARK are about: classy songwriting, incredible instrumentation, amazing harmonies, and a groove that will have you moving your feet and shakin’ your hips from the word go.  They may be hard to label in the context of genre, as they bring such diversity to everything they do, but in essence, that’s the beauty of this band.  BARK ooze ‘serious-cool,’ no matter what they are playing.

Don’t sit down just yet! BARK continue to take us on a magical ride with both “Trust Yourself” and “World Gone Mad,” and, as the tracks unfold, it’s not lost on me how these three highly skilled singer-songwriters have a new story to tell in each and every song they perform. The title track, “King Of This Town,” highlights BARK at their absolute best, for me, and demonstrates their natural ability to harmonize; always their biggest strength.  Add that to their powerhouse lyrics and delivery, throw in their talents as accomplished musicians, and you have an unstoppable force.  BARK are in a class of their own, and, in my opinion, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Having performed at the Ryman Auditorium and legendary Bluebird Café in Nashville this past January, it is safe to say that BARK are deeply ingrained in the fabric of country, roots, and rock music in North America. “King Of This Town” is not only another phenomenal album from this amazing group, but represents the crowning glory for Canada’s foremost exponents. 

Visit Blackie and the Rodeo Kings’ website.

Stevie Connor

An award winning piper, composer and singer / songwriter from Edinburgh, Scotland now based in Ontario, Canada, Stevie is the founder of Blues and Roots Radio, a multi award winning media platform established in 2012, based just outside of Toronto, with a hub in Melbourne, Australia. He has been recognized in 2014 and 2017 by the Mississauga Board Of Trade and Legislature of Ontario for his work in support and promotion of independent artists across Canada and around the world. He has in the past been honoured to sit on national music award panels.
He is currently head of programming and music director at Blues and Roots Radio where he oversees the running of two online radio channels and reviews the many releases sent to the station for airplay consideration.
He is passionate about the Canadian independent music scene and covers as many live events as time will allow.

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