By: Sean Carsley July 11th, 2013
It’s not surprising to find out that the Skydiggers formed around the same time as the Cowboy Junkies and Blue Rodeo, creating a signature acoustic sound which emulates the same stark, crisp mood.
For their 25th anniversary album, No.1 Northern, the tone is eclectic to say the least. Comprised from a grab bag of covers, the track list slides from a legendary Canadian rock artist to the world of country and folk.
The song selection is interesting. Choosing Neil Young’s “Don’t Cry No Tears” shows their loyalty to fine tablature work. An understandable choice considering Neil’s mindset during the release of this song in 1975.
On their cover of Linda McRae’s “Burning Bridges”, the initial foundation of original sounds like a Neil homage with it’s dirty electric grunge, so in turn, the Skydiggers take it to their own acoustic level. A neat collision.
Reworking Gene MacLellan’s “Snowbird” — a monster hit for Anne Murray, to whom it will forver be identified with — the band instead remain true to MacLellan’s more subdued, original vision, a style in which their own sound resonates. They do supreme justice to “Red Deer to Margaree” (a nice nod to Andrew Cash, brother of former Skydigger bandmate Peter Cash) and Gordon Lightfoot’s “Spin Spin”.
There is no flash, but there’s substance to No. 1 Northern. Where the Skydiggers fall short is the ability to enhance one or maybe two of the originals. Perhaps Ron Sexsmith’s “Just My Heart Talkin'” could have been ramped up. Then again, it’s not possible to fault this band that wished to remain true. You can listen to this album and get that sense of ‘sitting around a fire’ melancholy. The more it gets listened to, the more you’ll find reason to go back to it.
Skydiggers – Bitter Beauty (Jason Collett cover)