“So Colorado / Is a place I have to go / I heard a rumour / She loves the mountains and the snow / My dark angel / She gave me diamonds for eyes / My dark angel / I offer you my heart / My dark angel / I think I loved you from the start.”
It’s a Blue Rodeo kinda Friday, don’t’ you think? We may not be bringing you a tune today from Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor directly, but there’s a story here… Stick with us…
You don’t necessarily have to be overly familiar with the musical catalogue of iconic Canadian alt-country rockers Blue Rodeo, but unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last few decades, you must surely have heard of “Five Days In July,” right? The band’s fifth studio album was released on October 26th, 1993 in Canada (the US release followed eleven months later) to critical acclaim, and remains their most commercially successful record – being certified platinum six times in Canada to date.
Loaded with plenty of hits and concert staples, is it possible to ever tire of hearing Jim Cuddy’s “Five Days in May” and “Bad Timing,” or Greg Keelor’s “Cynthia” and “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet?” This timeless album not only holds a prominent place in the record collections of die-hard Blue Rodeo fans worldwide, but in the collections of casual Canadian fans from the Maritimes to the Northwest Territories. For many of our northern neighbors, “Five Days in July” is a big deal – a “Dark Side of the Moon” caliber big deal, a “Rumours” big deal, a “Hotel California” big deal. Okay, I may have over exaggerated a little in terms of comparative sale numbers here, but that wasn’t my point…
One of the most underrated tracks across “Five Days in July,” in my humble opinion (and with less radio airplay), is “Dark Angel,” the slow, somber, piano heavy and emotionally moody offering from Keelor that features additional vocals from another Canadian treasure, Sarah McLachlan. This is a tune that I shall never tire of hearing – especially in a live environment, when the band members (with the exception of keyboardist Mike Boguski) depart to leave Keelor alone under a sole spotlight. It appears that I am not alone in professing eternal love for this particular album cut, and took delight in learning that three prominent Canadian singer-songwriters – Jill Barber (BC), Jenn Grant (NS) and Rose Cousins (PE) – recently decided to come together as a trio to cover this tune.
Last Spring, Jill and Jenn were backstage at a Blue Rodeo concert in Vancouver when “Jim Cuddy turned to us and suggested that, along with Rose Cousins, we should form a trio… like a Canadian version of the Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris trio,” Jill recalls. “The next thing we knew we were sending Rose a video message saying: ‘we’re doing this, because Jim said so’.” Growing up themselves as fans of Blue Rodeo, Jill, Jenn, and Rose all experienced their coming of age together in the Halifax music scene. “I have been friends with Rose and Jill since I began in this industry, and in that way it has very much felt like we have grown up together, and understand each other on a level that is rare and special,” adds Jenn.
If the surfacing of uncontrollable goose bumps is something encountered when you hear Keelor’s distinct vocals and emotive presence delivering this tune, then you _may_ be ready to face the simply gorgeous three-part vocal harmonies offered here by Jill, Jenn, and Rose. Aside from the minimal and muted instrumentation, the ladies opt to interpret the ballad in an a cappella style, stamping their own claim, rather than imitating the original. And did I mention those three-part vocal harmonies???
“I treasure these women and it’s deeply pleasing to have recorded something together,” Rose shares. “Especially this meaningful song on the 30th anniversary of an album we all love so much by a band we love and have now all shared the stage with – which my teen self hardly believes.” The idea to record a haunting cover of Dark Angel, that weaves our three voices together in harmony for the first time (on record), felt as it if was always meant to be,” Jill adds. “There’s so much love in these voices,” Jenn continues. “It’s an honour to be part of it, to celebrate the anniversary of a band we truly love, and friendships that will last a lifetime.”
Photo Credits: Jessica Jacobson (Jill) / Dee Dee Morris (Jenn) / Artist Website (Rose)