Blue Rodeo: One thousand arms over a split lane highway

Monday 23rd, January 2017 / 12:09
By Danny Kresnyak

VANCOUVER — Luminary Canadian country rockers Blue Rodeo and their crew are hard at work on final preparations for a coast-to-coast tour across Canada in the dead of winter. Anyone who’s attempted this on any level understands the mass of challenges it presents.

Why would a band with more than three decades of CanCon icon status, shelves cluttered with Juno awards and millions of albums sold, choose to subject themselves to the bitterness of the elements during the harshest time of year?

According to co-lead singer, western-shirt enthusiast and heartthrob of the true, north strong and free, Mr. Jim Cuddy, they do it because, “Canadian audiences are faithful, they stick with you. You show up, They’ll show up; the front row may be in parkas, but they’ll be there.”

“The only catch is, you can’t suck…too often. Or that will get noticed too.”

According to Cuddy, the new record, 1000 Arms, is a return to the early style of their first records that captured the band’s live vibrations. This includes harmonies and call-and-answer vocal parts shared between Cuddy and his chief musical collaborator Greg Keelor.

The material on 1000 Arms explores and embraces the nature of what a community is and what it does. The title track, penned by Cuddy, was Inspired by a podcast about the true story of a woman afflicted with bipolar disorder. The woman was a beloved character, operating a unique coffee shop in her neighbourhood. At times she relied on her neighbours to help her through her manias, and the security she was offered by their collective arms helped her to thrive, held up by the good will of her neighbours.

Blue Rodeo’s career is made on this sound, and this tour during the barren, desolate part of winter is a thank you to their fans in classic Canadian tradition. “When we were first starting out, it was wide open. Nobody toured at this time of the year so it was easy to get dates.” And as Cuddy, a family man through and through, added, “it’s the time of year when you are missed the least at home.”

The tour will touch down in big-whistle stops with two shows in Vancouver, two in Calgary, and other major centres before returning home with thousands of new clicks on the band’s shared odometer. Blue Rodeo will also visit smaller communities, places like Thunder Bay, where the tour begins on January 11, roughly eight-hours (in ideal conditions) of winding split lane Canadian Shield highway from the nearest major population centre. And Estevan, Saskatchewan, where Cuddy says he’s seen “a new prosperity…” due to “migration, where places like Saskatchewan used to have entirely unique identities, now Canadians have moved around and brought their own traditions.”

Cuddy says this effect has strengthened the national fabric and given Canada a chance to be the catalyst in connecting the global community with real progress.

While this ethos and tour reach wide, Cuddy wants to go further. “I want to play Rankin Inlet,” and a host of other places which are often left out of the national policy dialogue yet are vital parts of the Canadian identity. Particularly now, as we face a post-Brexit, staring-down-the-barrel-of-president-Trump world that seems to have chosen to isolate itself from the notions of community presented in this work, and by this tour.

“Some artists may feel they have a toothless grip, but in Canada, we’ve had the opposite effect,” said Cuddy. “We can do a lot more than just get out the vote.”

Blue Rodeo performs on January 27 and 28 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

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