After finding success with Five Days In July, Blue Rodeo set down a very different path for their 1995 follow-up record, Nowhere To Here. If Five Days… was the sound of a band sitting ’round a campfire joyfully singing and sharing songs, Nowhere To Here was the sound of a band fleeing the scene of a disaster.
Coming off what remains their best-selling record to date in Canada, you would think that Blue Rodeo had the world in their hands at this point in their careers and that their music would have been an accurate reflection of such. But from its bleak cover art through the songs themselves, Nowhere To Here strikes me as the sound of a band trying to find its place amid so much uncertainty.
Playing into much of my perception of this could be the personal upheavals encountered by Greg Keelor during the making of Nowhere To Here:
Discovering that he was adopted as a child, Keelor came to find out that his birth name was Francis McIntyre and that his birth mother resided in Inverness County, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. Keelor and Blue Rodeo had just settled in at Keelor’s farm to begin making Nowhere To Here as this news came to light, leaving him unable to abandon his band mates for the sake of discovering his past. Talk about being torn in two directions.
And if that wasn’t quite enough for one person to absorb, Keelor found himself approximately 10 feet up a ladder one day during the process of recording. Keelor fell off the ladder onto his back and head, breaking numerous ribs and aggravating an already known case of tinnitus that he was plagued with.
Now there is no question that Keelor has always been the more musically adventurous member of the Jim Cuddy-Greg Keelor song writing team and on Nowhere To Here, he delved into psychedelic territory on tracks like “Girl In Green” and “Brown Eyed Dog” that fans hadn’t really heard since the days of Diamond Mine. Now this isn’t to say that Keelor had always been a ray of sunshine with his songs up to this point and had drastically changed his writing style to reflect what was going on in his personal life around the time of the making of this record. The darkness that loomed in (and heard in) many of Keelor’s previous songs simply boiled to the surface on Nowhere To Here.
As dark of a record that Nowhere To Here is, it remains a favourite Blue Rodeo record of mine for many reasons. The record’s dominant feelings of isolation and loneliness resonated with me at the time of its release. The album’s darkest corners are countered by upbeat moments like “Better Off As We Are” and for those “happier times” heard on this record (as few and far between as they are), the listener is reminded that through no fault of our own, we’re all bound to encounter dark points in our lives.
One can only hope that the dark times sound as glorious and majestic as the material found on Nowhere To Here.