Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (that's 'BARK' t'you, pardner) are an ongoing accident, but what an incandescent fluke! Colin Linden (here), Stephen Fearing (here), and Tom Wilson were supposed to, in 1996, just hit the studio, cut a tribute to Willie P. Bennett, and then mosey on. But that ain't the way it happened. They found they had a hell of a lot more in common than any of them could've suspected, and now it's 12 years and five CDs later (this anthology being their 6th) and the boys show no sign of letting up.
I'm tempted to say they remind me of Iain Matthews' old Plainsong group but only because they're so damned remarkable together, mirroring the earlier perfection wrought by Matthews and Andy Roberts in their two incarnations (1972, 1993). In truth, BARK has always been a hell of a lot earthier, kinda nasty in fact, more like John Martyn on a drunk, cussing and roothoggin' where memories and circumstance dictate the appropriateness. Plainsong was beautiful, but Blackie and the boyz get down and dirty, cookin' like nobody's business. The 14 retrospective cuts in Swinging from the Chains of Love are more than ample to light a few fires beneath your rear and get those gluteals shakin'.
Stoned is a loader's anthem to stand with Lowell George's Willin', this time by way of Warren Zevon, werewolves and all. And speaking of the late Lowell, "Remedy" harks back to the best of Little Feat when they were hungry, rumblin', and backseat swingin'. Even The Band manages to get a few echoes edgewise in the same track, and then more pronouncedly in The Caves of Jericho. BARK also turns Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues inside out, guitars wailing and chugalug rhythm loping, just before launching into one of Bennett's opuses, Sometimes It Comes So Easy, with it's Dire Straits-ish lines and mournful vocals. By the time this compendium winds down, you've gone through swamp, New Orleans, rock, folk, boogie, way tainted gospel, and just about all the kindred rhythms expended during the decade-plus when, as they themselves say, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings "rode across the land, leaving empty cans of musical whup-ass behind them".
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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