Like so many bands I’ve come to love, I came across Stephen Fearing’s music because of his (loose) connection to The Band. Fearing plays in a band called Blackie & the Rodeo Kings along with a guitar player named Colin Linden. Linden associated with The Band in the 80’s & 90’s and in 1987 he recored a good cover of “Chest Fever” which is a Band song nobody fucking covers.
So anyway, that’s how I learned about Stephen Fearing. Blackie & the Rodeo Kings are a decently big deal to contemporary rock fans, their song “Stoned” is awesome (and they have a new album in the works), but Stephen’s solo music has always had a stronger effect on me. On one live album he covered “Thrasher,” a Neil Young song that nobody fucking covers. That live album So Many Miles best captures Fearing’s strengths as a songwriter–it’s just him and his guitar and the clarity of every word and the effortless combination of Canadian and Irish folk influences. The six minutes you spend listening to “The Longest Road” gives you a story it takes most people a whole album to tell. Between Hurricanes, something like Fearing’s eighth solo album since his debut in 1988, is the best he’s sounded in the studio. He’s wielding metaphor like Richard Thompson at his fighting weight on “Don’t You Wish Your Bread was Dough.” Fearing’s lyrical deftness is the attraction of the album. There’s nothing flashy. It’s like he’s sewing a quilt only remarkable when your covered up in it and warm. He achieves a Sinatra-warmth, wee-small, spun out of delicacy and confidence. A combed cotton album.