August 6, 1997

MEDIA

Long and Winding Rodeo
Up and Down Band kicks off folk fest
by Mike Ross - Express Writer

MEDIA

"I heard those rumours, too," laughs singer Jim Cuddy during a recent phone interview. "We did a concert this summer and I think it was advertised that we had reunited for it."

And a good laugh was had by all. Blue Rodeo didn't break up. The band is alive and kicking, headlining the Edmonton Folk Music Festival tomorrow night and supporting a brand new album called Tremolo.

Still, every rumour has a grain of truth. Canada's favourite country-band-in-an-alternative-rock guise did split up, in a manner of speaking, last fall. The band members went their separate ways after singer Greg Keelor went off (waaaay off) to make a solo album.

LIFE CHANGES

He did it to chronicle a rapid succession of bizarre events in his life - finding out the identity of his birth mother, falling off a ladder and giving himself a nasty crack on the head, suffering from tinitis (ringing in the ears), undiagnosed diabetes and finally, spending six weeks with a guru in India who he said had been "calling" him all along.

"When coincidences like that hit at an accelerated rate," a bedraggled-looking Keelor told The Sun earlier this year, "maybe it's just the hand of Ganesh, the elephant-headed deity who starts revealing the illusion to you."

In 12 years, Blue Rodeo has had its weird moments, but never this weird. Keelor, who at least retained his sense of humour, called his album Gone - and that's what it sounded like.

"I've heard all his stories," says Cuddy, "and I know that Greg is a very good storyteller and he has a great belief in stories and more belief in the power of stories than he has in the power of truth.

`SOMETHING EXTREME'

"Don't get me wrong. His stories are definitely drawn from fact. I don't know how he's telling it to people, but I think that Greg went through a long period of time where he really didn't understand the state of mind he was in, and then he started to find disciplines and religious orders that mirrored that. Some of it was exaggerated by the fact that he had undiagnosed diabetes. Even the people closest to him didn't understand what was going on with him, but it was something very extreme.

"I think it's more important for me to talk about what he did musically, because I think that record for Greg was a musical experience that he'd been wanting to have for a long time. And it was not a musical experience he could've had with Blue Rodeo."

Cuddy admits he initially felt threatened by his eccentric partner's decision to record an album without Blue Rodeo. It also meant a lot of free time for the rest of the band. There was nothing for Cuddy to do but record a solo album of his own. Drummer Glenn Milchem did the same. Others went off to do session work.

The experiences apart actually brought Blue Rodeo closer together.

Says Cuddy, "At the moment we decided to do solo records, I think that was the moment when we re-committed to Blue Rodeo. Then it seemed to make sense, then we could treat the solo records as being something musically different from Blue Rodeo, and I think that took some of the pressure off Blue Rodeo, trying to make one musical unit do things that it wasn't particularly suited to.

"When we did get back together, had work to share with each other, we also realized that it's so easy to play in Blue Rodeo. The reason a band stays together for 12 years is that it feels good about itself. It works and we really appreciate each other's playing. The making of Tremolo was really easy. People had a break and they came back without the stress of just having finished a tour, remembering every hotel room and every mile on the bus, and then done something entirely different. Sitting in the studio and learning songs was a joy."