In-depth Biography Three established Canadian musicians were pleasantly surprised to discover that others shared their tastes in music and the tunes of one particular songwriter. A project producing a 1996 album featuring the songs of countryman Willie P. Bennett became a more lasting entity for Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden and Tom Wilson. Naming themselves after a Bennett song and 1978 album title, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings released a second album in 1999.
Respected folkie Fearing and Linden, an in-demand guitarist and producer, discovered a common love of Bennett songs. Fellow Ontario musician Wilson, frontman for rockers Junkhouse, must have seemed an odd fit with the other two. But his love of Bennett songs and his distinctive husky baritone much like their idol's made him a perfect addition. Linden's blues roots, Fearing's folk influences, and Wilson's rock attitude and surprising country streak found broad common ground in what Linden disarmingly calls "roots music." While they each had careers, their paths kept crossing. Linden produced Fearing's acclaimed Industrial Lullaby, and Fearing and Wilson both turned up on Linden's Raised by Wolves. Linden, who got a Grammy nomination for his work on A Tribute to Howlin' Wolf, toured with Junkhouse. Their first album as a collective was High or Hurtin' in 1996, a loving tribute of 14 songs with musical assistance from Bruce Cockburn, keyboardist Richard Bell of The Band, Prairie Oyster singer Russell deCarle, Colleen Peterson and Bennett himself singing and playing mandolin. Reaction was so positive, the trio issued the double CD Kings of Love in 1999, recorded at the Tragically Hip studio in Kingston, Ontario. The outstanding material included six songs by Bennett as well as Cockburn, Jules Shear, Murray McLauchlan, John Martyn, Bennett compatriot Fred Eaglesmith and the band members themselves. Let's Frolic followed in 2006. ~ Mark Allan, Rovi