There are many examples out there of groups whose chemistry or covalence Is the thing; that the parts themselves, under the microscope, would not astound or necessarily inspire. That doesn't take away from the magic. In fact, when the elements themselves do not seem life changing, it can be particularly cathartic to see the joining of forces create something much greater than the mere sum.
But the alchemy of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings is of an entirely different order and magnitude. If any one of these three guys sat in your kitchen and pulled out their guitar and sang you some songs, you would never forget it. Any of them know how to brand their vibe right to your skin or imbed their words in your secret inner recesses. To do that, of course, requires soul power that only the few possess.
And so, the joining of forces here is more armada like. As each steps forward or recedes, the triangle is like an arrowhead in motion, catching different angles of sunlight as it spins toward the mark. Each is in such solid possession of his gifts, that they can be floated or driven into the room at will.
Too often, soul power doesn't translate well to recordings; but again, with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, this is far from the case. Individually and together, they've made so many records by now, they have no problem whistling the juju down the mic lines so it even comes up testifying or confessing, crooning on your computer speakers, though a solid headphone or roomshaking session is recommended.
If you haven't seen them, check out the numerous youtube videos we put up of their recent show in Nashville. They are masters of the show as they are of the song, and should never be missed in one's town. Their unique appeal as a supergroup of sorts (originally formed many years ago, to pay tribute to the songs of one of their heroes, Willie P. Bennett) is that their strengths and their individual voodoos lie far afield from one another, so that the cumulative effect is very deep, and wide.
No sleepers on this disc. "Crown Of Thorns," penned by Colin Linden's novelist wife, is classic. My personal favorite is the superb opener, "Silver Dreams," which Wilson, Linden, and Fearing wrote together. B&RK get more greatness on one album than many acts can lay claim to in their careers. Along with maestro and producer Colin Linden, the nuclear trio includes wise Tom Wilson (originally of the Canadian chart toppers Junkhouse) and the penetrating Stephen Fearing. The solo albums of each of them are, likewise, landmarks. One of our favorite acts, anytime, anywhere. • Frank Goodman
our conversation with tom wilson