Skydiggers There And Back

As one of Canada's hardest-touring bands, it's hard to imagine ten years of one-nighters whittled down to a single disc. However, the Skydiggers have done it for the sake of (as the liner notes explain) documenting the way they feel when they get together with a group of friends to have a few drinks and catch up on what's going on. In this case, the meeting place is last year's annual Christmas show at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern, with a few tracks snuck in from the aborted 1998 sessions at Edmonton's Sidetrack Cafe. There's nothing surprising here for anyone who's ever seen the band live, at least not since Peter Cash was replaced by Paul MacLeod. The only question would be whether Andy Maize's typically off-the-cuff between-song patter would stand up to repeat listening. Song wise, it's a nice overview of their entire catalogue; the only glaring exception being the hits from Road Radio, co-written by the Cash brothers. Those are made up for by fine choices from their overlooked last studio album, Desmond's Hip City, "The Truth About Us" and "Dear Henry." MacLeod's solo turn on Jesse Winchester's "Biloxi" is a welcome addition, as is the new studio track, "Will You Ride Wide Open," which continues to show the band flirting with a more experimental pop direction. For the uninitiated, There And Back makes a nice companion piece to their last release, the demos for their second album, Still Restless, but it's about time that long-time fans get a new studio album. (Outside)