Blackie and the Rodeo Kings Kings And Queens

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings Kings And Queens
For their seventh album, Canadian roots rock super-group Blackie and the Rodeo Kings mess with the formula. They've invited 14 female vocalists (their "queens") to guest on a track apiece, and that list is one star-studded affair. Getting arguably the three best female singers in roots music (Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams and Rosanne Cash) to contribute is quite the coup, and some other major names are also featured. Rather than being overshadowed by their guests, Tom Wilson, Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing rise to the occasion vocally, and the fact that they, along with a few outside co-writers, wrote all but two of the songs ensure that their unique identity remains. The outside cuts are "Step Away," by the group's guiding light, Willie P. Bennett, and Buddy and Julie Miller's "Shelter Me Lord." As is often typical with them, Wilson comes up with the rockier material, shining on cuts with Lucinda ("If I Can't Have You") and on a frisky romp with Exene Cervenka ("Made of Love"). Linden adds gravitas with the gospel-favoured "Shelter Me Lord" (with Patti Scialfa) and alongside Emmylou on the slow, shimmering "Step Away," while Fearing duets perfectly with Cassandra Wilson on gentle ballad "Golden Sorrows" and with Serena Ryder on riveting album closer "Black Sheep." Ryder, in fact, delivers arguably the strongest guest vocals. As producer and the project's key initiator, Linden deserves plenty of credit. The cast list has already ensured media attention, and the results don't disappoint. At close to an hour's length, this is a generous, regal musical treat. (File Under: Music)