Here’s a clip of Canadian alt-country pioneers and songwriting giants Blue Rodeo with their 1990 hit “Trust Yourself”, taken from their album Casino.

Blue Rodeo Casino
Blue Rodeo started on the club scene on Queen Street West in Toronto, building on 60s folk rock and developing their own niche as superlative original songwriters intially during a time of synth-oriented pop in the mid-1980s.

To many, alt-country was a beast born much later than 1990, when bands like Wilco, the Handsome Family, and The Jayhawks began to ignite scenes all over the States, particularly as evidenced in the No Depression sound.  But, Blue Rodeo were quietly making albums from the mid-to-late 80s in Canada, with singer-songwriters Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor musically navigating between classicist country-rock crooning, and acidic rootsy bile respectively. Early gigs with k.d lang opened some doors for the group, and soon they had a loyal following of their own.

There were a lot of early critical parallels between Blue Rodeo and the Band, especially when keyboardist Bob Wiseman was in the group. But, to me their early sound was more stylistically akin to the Byrds, with twelve-string guitars and hazy, 60s-influenced folk-rock sounds infused into their songs.  A high point in their career for me was 1993’s Five Days in May album, when the band retreated to the Muskoka region, just north of Toronto – known to Ontarians as ‘cottage country’ – to jam, and to record. If there is a parallel with the Band, then maybe this album is the best example; a bunch of Canadians in the woods making music in a clubhouse, a la Big Pink. Otherwise, I think these guys have designed their own template.

I heard a snippet from the sessions while I was going to University, living in North York in a shared house with no TV.  Radio, particularly the CBC, was a regular thing for us.  Their song “Know Where You Go/Tell Me Your Dream” from that record grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and demanded I seek it out, which I dutifully did.  It remains to be one of my favourite albums.  And ‘Trust Yourself’ really made me think about how great country music could be even earlier on, even if it’s arguable that this tune isn’t exactly a country song per se.

I sometimes marvel at the level of talent in our country here, with our modest little population.  And I equally wonder why more of our artists aren’t world-renowned, particularly when songs like “Lost Together”, “Till I’m Myself Again”, “Diamond Mine”, and so many others are such tremendous songs.  Blue Rodeo are certainly a band I think everyone needs to have heard.

For more music, check out the Blue Rodeo official site.



2 thoughts on “Blue Rodeo Perform ‘Trust Yourself’

  1. Not sure how I missed this article, but I did.

    “Trust Yourself” is the song these guys sang on some late night talk show (I honestly don’t remember which). I liked it, sought the group out, and bought Casino.

    I enjoy the album. Not only this song, but “Montreal” is a stand-out track for me as well.

  2. Hey Tom,

    Casino is a solid record with some great songs on it. I honestly have never heard a bad record by them. I’d also recommend Jim Cuddy’s solo stuff, which is in the same vein.

    When it comes to a wider appeal of this band, I think Blue Rodeo were victims of their own pioneering spirit. When they began to craft their sound, not many other bands at the time were following in their footsteps. I think they were a decade too early, in some ways. I came this close to seeing them at the Borderline in London, which is a tiny little club I used to go to all the time when living there. There’s not a chance in heckfire I’d see them anywhere in Canada in that kind of setting.

    Thanks for comments!

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