k.d.lang & Putumayo Rhythm & Blues

Welcome back to Fervor Coulee. In my Red Deer Advocate column this week (originally published February 19, 2010) I am pleased to feature two new releases, the reissue of Central Alberta’s own k.d. lang’s A Truly Western Experience and a new compilation from Putumayo, Rhythm & Blues. As always, support the artists and- I guess in this case- the labels.

Best, Donald

k.d. lang & the reclines

A Truly Western Experience- 25th Anniversary Edition

Bumstead Records

I stopped listening to k.d. lang in the mid-90s. Prior to that, she released fresh, challenging country music; it all started with an explosive live show and a little 7” white vinyl single.

For a brief time in the mid-80s, there wasn’t a hotter ticket in Edmonton, and I recall that in the weeks following the release of A Truly Western Experience, amidst the Madonna, Howard Jones, and Michael Jackson albums, the most in-demand record was the blue album with the collage barnyard.

This new 15-track issue, fleshed out with live tracks from a 1985 concert, a demo, and the aforementioned single- including the b-side, the first-rate “Damned Old Dog”- is artfully packaged and focuses attention on the lang back-story, before the Junos and Dave Edmunds, before Nashville, Roy Orbison, the Grammys, PETA, Vanity Fair, and Tony Bennett.

While mildly disappointing when first heard in 1984, 25 years brings perspective to the original nine tracks that were A Truly Western Experience. It was a darn fine little platter, and announced lang as the anti-Barbara Mandrell.

The lively tracks were most enjoyed; playing at rockabilly with “Bopalena” and bopping country on “Hanky Panky”, lang was the poster child for those who loved vintage everything and Patsy Cline. The populist appeal of “Stop, Look, and Listen” was and remains magnetic. Even with its range of tempos and styles, few knew that “Pine and Stew” and “Busy Being Blue” hinted at her future as a cosmopolitan crooner.

The live tracks, especially the addictive “Johnny Get Angry”, flashes one back to the Dinwoodie Lounge on the University of Alberta campus, witnessing the development of a star in cut-down cowboy boots, a fringed shirt, and those glasses. And if you missed it the first time around, the bonus 3-track DVD will fling you to 1984 quicker than you would expect.

Various Artists

Rhythm & Blues


It’s claimed that Willie Dixon said, “Blues is the roots, all the rest is the fruits.”

And what fruits these are! This 12-track compilation of modern and traditional R&B- the pre-90s definition of the term- is 40-minutes of toe-tapping sounds most of us will have missed.

From 1972 and The Emotions comes “My Honey and Me”, as pure a slice of yearning one can hope to enjoy on a Saturday night. From about a year ago we have Irma Thomas giving promise and hope on “River is Waiting”. In between, folk fest favourites including Ruthie Foster, James Hunter, and Sharon Jones give lessons in what R&B really means; check out The Quantic Soul Orchestra featuring Kabir’s “Who Knows.”

Like most Putumayo albums, this disc reveals music one has never experienced; this disc’s find is Catherine Russell, a Berklee professor who soulfully channels Sam Cooke to memorable effect.

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