Old but never left behind

After 26 years in the music biz, Canadian country-rock band Blue Rodeo, which performs on Tuesday, Jan. 12, at the Centrium, is not big on trends. For instance, in a time when many artists are shunning CDs and releasing individual songs through iTunes, Blue Rodeo has put out an old-fashioned behemoth — a double album.

Blue Rodeo has seen the fads come and go on the Canadian music scene — and has outlasted them all. The band returns to Red Deer for a concert on Jan. 12.

After 26 years in the music biz, Canadian country-rock band Blue Rodeo, which performs on Tuesday, Jan. 12, at the Centrium, is not big on trends.

For instance, in a time when many artists are shunning CDs and releasing individual songs through iTunes, Blue Rodeo has put out an old-fashioned behemoth — a double album.

Guitarist/vocalist Jim Cuddy said 16 satisfying new songs were written for the 2009’s release The Things We Left Behind, and the group was reluctant to throw any of the tunes away — or slot them onto a super-long single CD.

Blue Rodeo was further spurred towards a two-CD format after hearing a pronouncement by Radiohead leader Thom Yorke that the album is dead.

Yorke’s rather pat statement “was almost an impetus for us. We thought, ‘Good. Let’s be completely unrepresentative of popular culture!’ ” Cuddy added, with a laugh.

While iPod users listen to songs in whatever order they wish, Cuddy, who is 54, comes from a time when music fans eagerly awaited their favourite band’s new album. Many diehard music nerds would even consider song placement as important to the album’s atmospherics, or mood, as the songs themselves.

Albums are carefully structured “collectives,” said Cuddy. They demand more attention of listeners — which might be asking a lot in these attention-deficit times, but he believes there’s a payoff.

“I do like that an artist took the time to arrange how the songs should go together, in a dynamic way.”

Blue Rodeo, including guitarist/vocalist Greg Keelor, bassist Bazil Donovan, drummer Glenn Milchem, and multi-instrumentalist Bob Egan, will perform some tunes from the new album on its cross-country tour — possibly All The Things that Are Left Behind, an unwistful song about moving ahead without old baggage.

Or there’s the expansive Million Miles, about going far from where you started. “That’s a great song,” said Cuddy, who appreciates its “fun” instrumentals.

There’s also a country ballad called One Light Left in Heaven and the guitar pop song, Sheba, among others.

As well, fans will undoubtedly be regaled with some familiar material that’s helped Blue Rodeo land seven Juno Awards and become a bit of a Canadian institution: the hit singles Try, Til I Am Myself Again, Lost Together, 5 Days in May, Hasn’t Hit Me Yet, Better Off As We Are, Side of the Road or It Could Happen to You.

The group’s iconic status in Canada was further cemented when Blue Rodeo was given a star on the Walk of Fame in Toronto earlier this fall. “That felt great,” recalled Cuddy. “It’s one of those things that’s pretty abstract. . . .

“We’re not a band that pats itself on the back a lot — that would seem a little self-conscious. So this (honour) was especially nice for our families, because they don’t get to share in the good side of what we do too often,” added the musician, who is married with three nearly grown kids.

Cuddy doesn’t think it’s possible to be entirely successful at balancing career and family responsibilities, but believes he’s done as well as most people, since “my children are older now and they still like me.”

One of his sons, Devin Cuddy, is even following his dad into the music business by getting a music performance degree in jazz piano from York University.

Even if the elder Cuddy wasn’t a musician, he said he would never presume to direct his son towards a more stable, sensible career. “He’s gone through the (music) program and understands what the work will entail, so I say ‘God bless you.’ As long as you understand what you’re getting into, that’s OK.”

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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