The Secret Sessions: Rheostatics Tribute
· "Where the dope fiends laugh/ And say its too soon"?
How dare I say that it might be too soon for a Rheostatics tribute album? Like many, many music fans, I lament but respect the guys decision to call it a day after 20-odd years. I heartily approve of the Canadian indie greats whove come together to sing the bands praises, including The Weakerthans, The Inbreds, a reunited Weeping Tile, Local Rabbits, Wooden Stars and various members of Lowest of the Low, By Divine Right, and the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir (to name but a few). Theres an appropriate mix of hits "Claire," "Bad Time to be Poor," "Record Body Count," and lesser known songs "Loving Arms," "Public Square." And many of these covers are note-perfect interpretations of the unforgettable originals.
That last point is probably the key. As colleagues and acolytes of the band, and as fans just like us, I suspect many of the musicians here are still held by a sense of reverence for the Rheos body of work. Only a few of them are willing to really play with the songs, as King Cobb Steelie do with their reconfiguring of selections from Music Inspired by the Group of Seven and Night of the Shooting Stars and Dylan Hudecki does in his enigmatic version of "Satan is the Whistler." No one lays claim to the music the way the Rheos themselves made "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" their own maybe right now thatd seem like Andy Warhol tackling the Mona Lisa.
So I think maybe its the Barenaked Ladies whove got it closest to right with their contribution a singalong version of "Legal Age Life at Variety Store" recorded live in Regina, featuring Jason Plumb (The Waltons), former Rheo guitar tech Tim Mech and an enthusiastic chorus from the audience. Its a joyous salute, a fitting "hail and farewell" to Canadian indie-rock royalty and the signal to the new generation of Canadian bands that they can begin finding their own truths in these songs.