When Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson came together as Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, they never intended the tip of the cap to Willy P. Bennett to result in a band, let alone a create a catalog that rivaled J.K. Rowling’s in terms of output. It was nothing more than inspired artists reaching out to say thanks to an unheralded great, but over the last twelve years the trio has blossomed into one of Canada’s finest roots outfits and their new release, Kings and Queens does nothing but justify that well-earned distinction.
Kings and Queens is the type of album you can’t help but want to hear. The band decided to try to wrangle a list of female singers they would love to sing with, and hot damn, is that list fantastic. Cash. Lucinda. Serena. Just the tip of the iceberg, but for music nerds like me, the process of not only writing for new voices but the emotion behind this record is something special. Thankfully Colin, Stephen and Tom took the time to jot down the genesis of each and every song. It’s a pure look at a great project, out now on File Under: Music. Enjoy!
If I Can’t Have You • Lucinda Williams
TW – Benzedrine fueled sunsets and a early evening stroll down Lonely Avenue. A song about a heartbreak so fresh every bartender and hooker can smell our hero’s vulnerability as he walks through the door. I guarantee you every word of this song has been lived a few times over and now, “that’s that.” It’s time to write about it, I guess. Co-written with Colin James and sung with passion along side Lucinda Williams, “It wasn’t God that made Honky Tonk Angels.” No Sir it was not.
Another Free Woman • Sara Watkins
SF – A gothic story of a woman married to a violent drunk, who is forced to take matters into her own hands. Tom and I wrote this song with a particular groove in mind and the desire to write a dignified escape for those brave female souls we all know, who triumph against the odds and against The Man.
TW – Freedom don’t come knockin’ at your door. Sometimes you have to go hunt it down. This is the first in a series of Great Lake Murder Anthems that will hopefully fill the airwaves for years to come. This song could have only been written along side Stephen Fearing. He has the ability to tie up the details and spin the images needed to recreate deep sadness and desperation at breakneck speed. A song and a theme badly needed on KINGS AND QUEENS. We dedicate this to every black eye and broken soul sleeping in a women shelter’s tonight.
Got You Covered • Rosanne Cash
CL – I made up this song with the great Ron Sexsmith with this album in mind. A fellow ought to be someone you can count on….. You can count on me. You can count on Ron too. I hope Rosanne Cash knows this…
I’m Still Loving You • Amy Helm
TW – Now that i’m asked to write about the songs I helped compose and instigated for the KINGS AND QUEENS I realize there’s quite a bit of loss and longing going on in my themes. For a guy who considers himself a loner I sure am asking for a lot of attention. “I’M STILL LOVIN’ YOU” has nothing to do with L O V E but does have a lot to do with the memory of that woman who touches you in the right ways and who’s passion has burned a memory that comes back to haunt your empty bed every time your head hits the pillow. Even after the lovin’ is done, the passion raves on. Buddy give in. You know what you need. That’s what this song is saying.
Golden Sorrows • Cassandra Wilson
SF – Josh Finlayson and I wrote this one: It started with a melody and a languid chord progression. Gradually, a tale emerged of longing and absolutely unrequited love between two isolated people from two different generations. When I decided to bring this to the Kings and Queens sessions, I realized that I would have to re-write half of the song into a female perspective. A very interesting process of looking at the story through a woman’s eyes.
My Town Has Moved Away • Pam Tillis
CL – I had the great fortune of writing this with our Queen, Pam Tillis. Writing with Pam is basically moving your chair back a foot or two so the spirit can come through her. She is unbelievably gifted as a writer (and of course as a singer). We both felt the heart-pull lonesome of seeing some place we loved change into some place unrecognizable.
How Come You Treat Me So Bad • Janiva Magness
SF – Sometimes you get to put into song, things that you wouldn’t normally articulate. You get to say things that you know can’t actually be said out loud. How come You Treat Me So Bad is about pills, booze, paranoia and walking home as the dawn breaks on the night before.
TW- This song is a musical coloring book of bad relationships. Every page you turn offers you another chance to fancy up your bad choices… or… a laugh a minute all the way to the back seat of the patrol that’ll carry you to the nearest correctional facility. You decide.
Heart A Mine • Mary Margaret O’Hara
TW – Back in 1977 I was was 17 years old and doing a tour of Queens Hotels throughout South Western Ontario. Tobacco towns and broken city centers held the homes of drunks who had given up on hoping for love to come by and save them. Did 26 shows a week (4 shows a night and 2 matinee shows on Saturdays). It was hard work and at the end of every night I climbed the stairs to a bed in an old hotel room above the bar with a bathroom down the hall. Horrible surrounding for a young fella. Sometimes I believed the only difference between me and the broken people I was playing for was my youth. Every night i’d drink myself to sleep and wish i had a radio that when I turned it on I could tune in the voices of all the people I loved. That’s what i brought to the table when i sat down with Stephen Fearing and Tawgs to figure this song out.
Brave • Holly Cole
TW- A friend of mine left her abusive husband and started a new life for herself and her kids. It is what i can only imagine as the bravest moment in her life. She got rid of the monster but couldn’t get the ring off her finger. A friend finally took her to have it cut off her finger. That was the moment she was set free. I have never had words come to me so easy as they did when I was writing this song with Rob Wells and Colin James. I imagined two voices telling this story and Stephen Fearing would have to be one of them. Colin recorded for his album Rooftops and Satellites and knocked it out of the park. Stephen picked up the ball and ran for a touchdown. Holly Cole makes it all the more beautiful.
Made Of Love • Exene Cervenka
CL – Composed by me and Tom and Gary Nicholson, the Willie Dixon of the 21st Century…..Everly Brothers/Sisters of the Punk, Tom & Exene tell no lies no this one.
TW – I wanted a song that could be sung by two star crossed rock a billy rounders. I ended up being one of them and the other one ended up being the Goddess of LA punk Exene Cervenka. I use to sell hash out front of the Hotel Roosevelt on Hollywood Blvd then go see her stand between Billy Zoom and John Doe in her band X back in the late 70’s. I always wanted her to kick my ass. I never imagined she actually would. Thanks to Gary Nicholson and Colin Linden for making my dreams come true.
Love Lay Me Down • Sam Phillips
CL – Tom & I made this up one night here in Nashville….With so much chaos and turbulence in this world, we all need someone we can lay our burdens down with…Sam Phillips, voice of the angel of the weary, brings so much soul to this.
TW – Colin Linden and I sat alone in room in his house in Nashville and wrote this song in what felt like all of 10 minutes. This is all for and about our friends and loved ones who have disappeared on us over the last couple of years. I don’t know anyone who feels more deeply for his friends like Colin Linden does. I do know that when I have to leave this earth I hope that it’s love that lays me down.
Black Sheep • Serena Ryder
SF – I started writing this at the end of a fourteen-year marriage. Hunger, regret, and the desire to start anew are powerful motivators and the image of the black sheep turning his back on the flock to strike out on his own inspired me. I was also inspired by the old nursery rhyme. “Jack Spratt was fond of fat, his wife was fond of lean, and so between the two of them, they picked the carcass clean.