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Review: Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Kings and Queens

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings
Kings and Queens
[Dramatico CD (release 6/14/11)]

Since they first came together in 1996, the Canadian Americana supergroup Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, comprising singer-songwriters Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing, and Tom Wilson, have consistently made superb albums that have failed to attract very much attention south of the border.

That may change with their latest effort, Kings and Queens, which finds the trio collaborating with a diverse and high-profile roster of female vocalists including Lucinda Williams, Exene Cervenka, Cassandra Wilson, and Emmylou Harris. The disc starts off strong with “If I Can’t Have You,” a crunchy, Rolling Stones-style rocker that features a sassy duet between Tom Wilson and Williams. Roseanne Cash trades verses with Linden on his soulful pub rock tune “Got You Covered.” Jazz diva Cassandra Wilson’s voice blends seamlessly with Fearing’s on the wistful, luminous ballad “Golden Slumbers.” Linden and Patty Scialfa sizzle on the slow Gospel tinged rocker “Shelter Me Lord.” Pam Tillis takes the vocal lead on another gorgeous Linden ballad, “My Town Has Moved Away.” All three Rodeo Kings harmonize with blues diva Janiva Magness on the high octane “How Come You Treat Me So Bad.” Linden and Harris pair off on the aching Willie P. Bennett love song “Step Away.” Wilson and Holly Cole pair off on another lush, slow love song “Brave.” Exene Cervenka and Wilson generate more heat on the 60s-style garage-rock tune “Made of Love.” Alt-rocker Serena Ryder cuts loose in her duet with Fearing on the muscular “Black Sheep.” Producer Linden not only got great performances out of his fellow Kings and their guests, but devoted his usual attention to guitar tones and lush instrumental textures.

If you’ve never experienced Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Kings and Queens is a fine place to start.

—Michael Parrish (San Jose, CA)

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