ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 21, 1999
By Steve Newton
Canadian guitar great and singer-songwriter Colin Linden has spent a large part of his life travelling this country’s highways and byways in pursuit of gigs. He’s also spent a huge portion of time holed away in recording studios, making his own records, producing other artists, and helming projects like last year’s Grammy-nominated A Tribute to Howlin’ Wolf. When he calls one morning from Calgary, after playing Lethbridge the night before, I’ve gotta ask the well-travelled musician whether he prefers the rigours of the road to the confines of the console.
“I love ’em both,” he says in a cheerful tone that belies his having slept on a bus. “It’s worked out really well for me, because in this past year I’ve spent half the year in the studio and half the year on the road. You know, when I’m out on the road I’m always thinking of little things that I’d like to try in the studio, and when I’m in the studio I’m kinda cravin’ to just be out there playin’ every night.”
Currently, Linden travels in the company of Tom Wilson and Stephen Fearing, the other members of Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, who make their way to the WISE Hall on Sunday (October 24). It’s just the three of them, sharing vocals and various guitars, playing songs from their sophomore release, Kings of Love. The album includes six tracks by the band’s musical benefactor, unsung Canadian tunesmith Willie P. Bennett, as well as others by the likes of fellow Canucks Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan, Fred Eaglesmith, and Linden’s wife, Janice Powers. There was so much worthy material available for the CD that there was no way they could have crammed it all onto one disc.
“We were kidding around with the idea of making it a double album from the very beginning,” says Linden, “but we didn’t really think that we would do it. We had also been tossing around the idea of doing a whole other album of Willie P. Bennett songs, or a whole album of original stuff, ’cause we’ve been pretty involved in each other’s music for the last few years. And then we also thought, ‘Boy, there’s all of these other great songwriters—some well-known, some not so well known—who have songs that can work in the context of what we do.’ And then we decided that, really, the best record to make is one that’s a hybrid of all of those ideas.”
Although Kings of Love wound up as a two-CD, 23-track opus rife with outstanding and varied material, it’s not an item that will break the common man’s monthly music budget. The band decided to offer its fans two discs for the price of one, and—along with record label True North and distributor Universal—eat some of the potential profits itself.
“Everybody’s making a little less from it,” admits Linden, “but ultimately we thought if it wasn’t crippling to the people who wanted to buy the record, that was the most important thing.”