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Let's Frolic Again

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Album Review

The second batch of songs recorded by Blackie & the Rodeo Kings (BARK to the group's fans) at the Bearsville sessions that yielded Let's Frolic is a looser, less structured affair. Far from leftovers, these 14 cuts have a similar feel to the music of the Dylan/Band Basement Tapes — a little rough around the edges but played with undeniable joy and enthusiasm that comes from the participants letting their guards down as the tape rolls. The appearance of the Band's Garth Hudson as sideman only reinforces that connection. Over half of these tunes are covers (Let's Frolic featured all originals), which adds to the low-key aspect of the sessions. Since the trio of Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden, and Tom Wilson originally formed this side project to play the songs of Canadian folkie Willie P. Bennett, it's no surprise that they stick two of his compositions into the set list. One of them, "Sometimes It Comes So Easy," is a standout here. There are false starts, changes called out as the musicians are playing, and ragged endings, but that's all part of this set's charm. Still, a sloppy, seemingly unrehearsed tossed-off "Red Red Robin" that closes out the proceedings could have stayed on the cutting-room floor without anyone missing it. But generally these guys find a groove and cover some gems — one of which is Chris Whitley's dusky "Poison Girl," arguably his best tune, which is given a strong interpretation. There is a Traveling Wilburys vibe to much of this, as the singers trade lead vocals and accompany each other without anyone stealing the spotlight. The material, especially some of the originals, isn't as strong as on the first volume, but the playing is so consistently relaxed and inspired that the album succeeds regardless. Colin Linden rescues his co-write with Kevin Gordon of "Down to the Well" (originally on Gordon's 2000 release of the same name), for one of this disc's finest and most moving performances. A frothy cover of Teenage Head's "Something on My Mind" is an undiscovered power pop jewel given a fresh coat of paint. Anyone who enjoyed Let's Frolic will likely appreciate its companion piece, even though each is different enough to be enjoyable in its own right.

Biography

Formed: 1996 in Ontario, Canada

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

One of Canada's leading roots rock acts, Blackie & the Rodeo Kings is a collaboration between three well-respected blues, folk, and rock musicians, Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden, and Tom Wilson. Fearing is a Vancouver-born, Irish-raised singer/songwriter who returned to the city of his birth in 1981; since 1986, he's released a number of critically acclaimed albums, and is a multiple Juno Award winner. Colin Linden hails from Toronto, and has collaborated with artists as varied as Leon Redbone, Bruce...
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Let's Frolic Again, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings
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