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Nowhere To Here – Blue Rodeo

Possibly my favourite Blue Rodeo album, this introspective, moody, down-beat album was apparently the result of a lengthy tour behind the sunny “Five Days in July” — when you are gone that long, things fall apart a little bit. This album reflects a turbulent period for the members of the band, in which everyone either had a problem or was upset by someone else’s problems. It doesn’t make for easy listening, but it’s well worth the effort.

The overwhelming feeling on this record is one of darkness, although it’s not hopeless. Beginning with the dreamy “Save Myself” and closing with the ruminative “Flaming Bed,” and including such gems as “Brown-Eyed Dog” which sounds like an acid trip set to music, most of Greg Keelor’s songs on this one are slower than in the past, yet still as thoughtful. “Girl In Green” is roughly the same tempo as the classic “Diamond Mine” and has a great organ sound — it’s one of the biggest-sounding songs on the album. “Side of the Road” has great harmonies and a more positive feel than some of the other tunes hereon.

Among the more interestingly downbeat is Jim Cuddy’s “What You Want,” which sounds equal parts heartbroken and furious, and gave me the willies (in a good way) the first few times I heard it. “Better Off As We Are” is a rocker about getting out and moving on. He’s written two of his better ballads for this album:

“Sky,” which is a purely mournful lament; and “Blew It Again,” a song whose shuffling beat matches the head-shaking lyrics (“Oh my, I can’t help wondering why / I blew it again/ Let you down…”) and is largely built around an unforced vocal that’s absolutely central to the success of the song. It’s the sound of someone trying to get around the inevitable but knowing he’s doomed to failure. Cuddy’s last song on the record, “Armour,” is a positive relief: the character in this song knows he’s in a relationship that may well be headed for trouble (“I know a fall is coming but it hasn’t happened yet”) but he’s still trying to head it off. Well, in context it’s a relief.

The thing about this record, though, is that as dark as it feels, it’s good dark. You don’t have to save it for when you feel like you’ve blown it, too: the musicianship is so good, the songwriting is so strong, that it’s possible to enjoy listening to it almost any time. One of those classic albums that feels like a direct reaction to a particular circumstance, it’s not the kind of thing a band can readily duplicate. “Nowhere To Here” is something that should be treasured for its content, as well as for its uniqueness.