February 8, 1996


Blue Rodeo Takes an Introspective Turn
by Greg Burliuk - Southam Newpapers


Nobody can accuse Blue Rodeo of trying to capitalize on their success. After selling nearly 400,000 copies of their last album, Five Days In July with a tuneful, acoustic sound, they've followed it up with a dark, moody piece called Nowhere To Here.

The band, originally scheduled to perform at the Kingston Memorial Centre back in November, is playing Monday in the more intimate confines of the Grand Theatre, a venue that perhaps suits the new material better. The opening act is Crash Vegas, whose album last year (named Aurora) was also more pensive than their previous material.

Blue Rodeo's stop in Kingston comes at the end of a string of successes: three shows sold out in Halifax, requiring a fourth show to be held; and a sold-out Blue Rodeo and friends performance in Toronto on Dec. 30. The show at the Grand is also sold out.


`Introspective And Darker'

Obviously, Nowhere To Here hasn't dimmed the lustre of the veteran band. Co-leader Greg Keelor describes the difference between the two albums in terms of the seasons. "Five Days In July was the summer because it was bright with lots of pedal steel and jangly tunes,'' he says. "This one is the winter:, a lot more introspective and darker. The band is at a point where we can play with an intimacy that allows us to be vulnerable. We can play with an open heart so that this album is an inner love story.''

The album ends with what Keelor admits is a "funeral march'' called Flaming Bed, based on a true incident that almost cost him his life. Yet as he tells it, the song is a love story between him ... and fire.

The event occurred at his farm while he was sleeping in a bedroom with a fireplace. He was living a celibate life at the time and had written several songs for the album. "It was pretty serious because when I woke up, the duvet covering me was on fire,'' says Keelor. "It was like a love story, though. The fire, she brushed my cheek. She wanted to consummate our relationship but she realized she was going to consume me so she sacrificed herself for me. I ended up with not a burn on me.

"I love fire. It scares me a lot because its power is overwhelming. There's a humbling strength about it that makes you respect [it] and be careful around it.''

As for the celibacy, Keelor chose it deliberately. "I fast periodically, and I've been told it releases different aspects of your subconscious. So I wanted to try a sexual fast - that is, refrain from intercourse and orgasm for a year. I still had the sexual energy - instead, I did a lot of yoga and meditation - but it was burning a lot cleaner.''

Keelor has other stories to tell about his songs. One that can't be repeated in this family newspaper is how he came to write Save Yourself, the album's first single and his favorite song on it. Let's just say it involves airports, an inspirational piece of excrement, drugs, New York City, and a hotel mirror. Then there's the song Brown-Eyed Dog and its opening lyrics of "Sometimes my flesh entwines with the bones of your breath.'' Says Keelor: "That describes what it's like when you're in a love that's in a transcendent state; or when you're in a band and everything's hitting so right that you become almost telepathic with one another and through the music you become of one mind.

"The rap is about the West Side Expressway in New York City, which has been closed for years, and you can go up there and walk above the city. One time I actually fell asleep up there, and when I woke up, there was this brown-eyed dog staring at me. You know what it's like when you wake up and don't know where you are. Well, that's what happened to me.''


Different From Radio Pap

You might be getting the impression that Nowhere To Here is a rather strange album. It's not, but it's as different from the usual radio pap as summer is from winter. And it fits into Blue Rodeo's career pattern of never trying to repeat itself. "Outskirts [in 1987] was popular and we followed up with Diamond Mine, which was moody like this one,'' says Keelor. "On this album, we've left a space in the music at the beginning of each song so you can see the horizons in it. Usually, songs have a lot of information off the top, but we wanted to let the listener's brain fill in the spaces.''

You could also call Nowhere to Here music to think by. And something else: I wasn't impressed with its sombreness at first, but with each successive listen, I've become more captivated by it. And if you study the lyrics, this album becomes a series of aural landscapes, sonic pieces of art to be savored like fine paintings. The Kingston Whig-Standard