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Monday, June 14, 2010

Blue Rodeo

The Things We Left Behind (Telesoul Records)

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Blue Rodeo, something of an institution in their Canadian homeland, has released 12 studio albums since 1987. TheThings We Left Behind, an ambitious double CD, blends country, folk and pop while taking a serious glance back toward the studio sounds of Laurel Canyon. The thick instrumentation and lush mix recall the heyday of 2-inch analog tape and albums that were worth the time booked in a first-class studio. Guitarists Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy share songwriting duties for the roots rock group; the stylistic differences create an interesting dynamic, between the dark songs of Keelor and the pop side of Cuddy.

Clocking in at over four minutes and five minutes respectively, Keelor’s title track and “Don’t Let the Darkness in Your Head” lead off each disc. “Behind” sees Cuddy adding Mellotron while “Darkness” recalls early solo George Harrison. Keelor’s loping introspection, coupled with the vintage production, focuses on song-craft and attention to detail. Cuddy’s tunes, while at times equally dark in subject matter, are buoyed by an underlying predisposition toward positive outcomes. His melodies and choruses often sparkle. It’s not entirely a yin/yang partnership, but this collection of songs deserves repeated listening to dig around the shadows and layers of detail.

Former Wilco pedal steel player Bob Egan joined Blue Rodeo long ago and has integrated himself beyond a utility player. On this album he nails echoes of California country rock. Also of note, for this album the band utilized a rotating trio of keyboardists playing Wurlitzer electric piano, organ and Mellotron. “Wasted” is headphone music of the highest order—it could fit in nicely on late-night FM programming.