Then there are the days in between
When everything seems hollow and mean
Don't want to move
I just want to forget
Smoke another cigarette and go back to bed
These are the days in between...
Title Track from The Days In Between
If the career of a band is looked upon as a journey, then Blue Rodeo has arrived somewhere truly special with the release of their ninth album The Days in Between.
"We didn't want anything to seem tossed off with this album. We'd done that before - and it's nice to know, as a band, that you're able to do that - but we realized we wanted something different this time," acknowledges front man Jim Cuddy.
Blue Rodeo is one of those bands that is particular about where and how an album is recorded, with atmospheres and personalities always woven into the end result. The Days In Between, is quite simply the group's most finely textured work yet.
"We worked harder on this album than any in a long time," said Cuddy. "We really wanted to make a record that was a bit of statement for us."
There is an undeniable writing chemistry between Jim Cuddy and co- frontman Greg Keelor, but it's also one that becomes alchemic and strained often, like any creative coupling that cares deeply about a singular end result. The Days In Between showcases their talents with an astounding depth and beauty seen in brilliant flashes on previous releases.
Now I know for the first time true
All of the ways I've been lying to you
It's not that I don¹t think we can open up in time
It's just that I'm afraid of what we'll find...
"Cinema Song" from The Days In Between
The Days In Between was recorded at the fabled Kingsway Studio, a vast, ancient mansion that graces a hard part of New Orleans. It was producer Daniel Lanois' home studio before he went south to Teatro in Oxnard, Cal., and Lanois still owns it.
Kingsway is a special place, to be sure. Emmylou Harris' haunting, gorgeous Wrecking Ball album was built there, as was much of U2's more prominent work. Peter Gabriel's best solo work was recorded within those walls, as was Luscious Jackson's terrific Fever In Fever Out. Neil Young is also very familiar with the sprawling, rustic haunt.
"It's an amazing place," says Cuddy. "There's nothing but records made in that place. No soundtracks, no commercials, it's just a pure music place. The atmosphere you hear on Emmy's album is that house in New Orleans."
For the album's production work, the band was very fortunate to have lined up producer and recording engineer Trina Shoemaker. Shoemaker is one of a stable of engineers that benefited from working with Lanois.
Blue Rodeo, it turns out, benefited from impeccable timing with Shoemaker. They had scheduled their first meeting with Shoemaker for a Tuesday. On the previous Monday evening, Shoemaker had copped a Grammy for her work on Sheryl Crow's outstanding Globe Sessions album. Shoemaker, incidentally, also helped on Harris' Wrecking Ball. The band's fears that Shoemaker would no longer be available due to her Grammy win were soon put to rest.
"She assured us that she had the time set aside, " says Cuddy. "Trina is a spectacularly talented person who pays no attention to 'the business'."
Somebody waits for the time I know will never come You get yourself so high Then you fall down feeling blue One day you¹ll wake up and realize you¹ve had enough There's a thousand shining moments Waiting just to happen to you...
"Cinema Song" from The Days In Between
With Shoemaker, a slight figure with a mighty work ethic, Cuddy, Keelor, bassist Bazil Donovan, drummer Glenn Milchem, keyboard player James Gray, and pedal steel guitarist Kim Deschamps were about to discover the true depth of her talent.
Cuddy had some trepidation initially about going to Kingsway, where Blue Rodeo had recorded their second album, Diamond Mine, in 1989.
"We wanted this album to be the antithesis of Diamond Mine, and Trina put the right vibe in. She was a bit of a revelation to us."
Like Lanois, Shoemaker works from the slightest detail, with the seemingly insignificant taking on great importance. Cuddy points to the heavy maracas that set off Crow's "Favorite Mistake," and, to the little piece that opens "Begging You To Let Me In" on Blue Rodeo's new disc as creations of Shoemaker's ear.
"Trina picked up things on our recordings we hadn't even noticed ourselves." That attention to detail and focus on quality rippled through the band, Cuddy says, with drummer Milchem acting as the band's chief whip. Milchem leaned on the songwriting tandem, pushing the alliance beyond established parameters.
"Glenn was very critical of this record. Greg would show up with these dark, sad songs and Glenn was like 'No! Write something upbeat!" That happened a few times, until finally Keelor arrived with the song "The Days In Between." All that cajoling had paid off, it seems. "It was the last song recorded, and it summed up the whole mood of the album," says Cuddy.
Blue Rodeo ended up recording the album basically as a four-piece with Keelor, Cuddy, Donovan, and Milchem. Keyboardist Gray and steel player Deschamps then wove in some atmospherics.
Deschamps left the band soon after the album was recorded and was replaced by multi- instrumentalist Bob Egan who brings with him some impressive credentials, having played with roots rockers Wilco , Billy Bragg and The Tragically Hip. Even on early tour dates for The Days In Between, Egan fit like a glove.
Slow down I want to go with you
Can¹t we wait here awhile
And I¹ll watch your smile
Come pouring in
As we let all the world go by...
"Always Getting Better" from The Days In Between
Adorning the front cover of The Days In Between is a dark photograph of a long, lonely road, with an old VW Beetle approaching from the distance and heading into nowhere in particular. For this band, there is no dead-end in sight.