It’s no surprise that this year’s American Music Festival at FitzGerald’s includes Canadian band Blue Rodeo in the lineup. What’s border crossing got to do with it when you’re talking about the big picture of American music? Blue Rodeo’s rocking amalgamation of country, blues, and pop recalls lots of folks. The tracks on Lost Together, their fourth and most current album, are rife with chiming Byrds guitars, snarly Stones fretwork, keyboards and accordion a la Garth Hudson’s signature work with the Band, and Marshall Tucker’s twangy sweep. Guitarists Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy split lead vocal duties to mostly winning effect, Cuddy’s plaintive melodicism nicely juxtaposed with Keelor’s nasal, Bob Dylan wail. These two also write all the songs, and are so consistently good that the occasional dud actually comes as a surprise. “Fools Like You” espouses a noble sentiment (giving the Indians back their land), but the earnest-with-a-capital-E lyrics sound like a Buffy Sainte-Marie outtake; fortunately, this type of wince-inducing anthem doesn’t rule Blue Rodeo’s playlist. What Keelor and Cuddy do best is make dead-on observations about love and its various stages (generally coming, going, and gone) without dipping into bathos. Saying “I love you” ain’t always easy, and Keelor and Cuddy capture the moment in all its heady, dopey glory in the title cut. “In your eyes I see that perfect world / I hope that doesn’t sound too weird.” Also noteworthy at the festival: the Skeletons. Bassist-singer Lou Whitney is worth the price of admission here, just to watch him crack wise and blast through a scorching, funkified version of “Only Daddy (That’ll Walk the Line).” Friday, midnight, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Bentham.