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- Posted on Nov 16th 2010 12:30PM by Jason MacNeil
Make It Real Records
Since that time, there have been several albums paying tribute to the legendary Canadian group, including 2007's 'Endless Highway: The Music of the Band,' which featured My Morning Jacket, Rosanne Cash and Death Cab for Cutie, among others. But for multi-instrumentalist Hudson -- now 73-years-young -- he and his wife Maud realized there had never been a collection featuring an entirely Canadian lineup.
"After 'The Last Waltz' screening, we were reviewing part of the catalogue," Hudson tells Spinner, while seated in front of a keyboard with Neil Young's brother Bob sitting close by. "And what happened a few years later is the Band box set. So looking through that -- which is comprehensive and considerable -- I was matching songs with singers; there are certain things that stood out and certain artists, not only in rock and roll, but the other forms of popular music."
"Maud saw that it was time and it could be done easily," he continues. "We knew enough about the material, and she also began investigating who was available in Canada -- we thought we would go somewhere, that was part of it."
The result is 'Garth Hudson Presents a Canadian Celebration of the Band,' an 18-track effort with a eclectic but consistently strong roster, ranging from Neil Young, Blue Rodeo and the Sadies to Mary Margaret O'Hara, Bruce Cockburn and Chantal Kreviazuk. The album -- hitting Canadian shelves this week with plans for international release -- also features Hudson playing keyboard on each track. It marks the first time a member of the group has curated and produced such a project.
"We knew a few people in Canada, and kept contact with the folks up here, made a few calls and began to look at the internet [for] clips from various artists," Hudson says. "There were suggestions for us to definitely include this one or that one, and we did, so we had many names."
Perhaps one of the more surprising aspects of the compilation is how many of the Band's signature songs, like 'The Weight' or 'Up on Cripple Creek,' aren't found on the record.
The material that is represented clearly seems to resonate with Hudson for one reason or another, including the short instrumental 'Genetic Method (Anew)' which precedes the closing 'Chest Fever' by Cockburn and Big Wreck vocalist Ian Thornley.
"There were more songs that we had put aside that I liked because of the musicality, because of the words, the sensibility or the humor," he says. "There are a couple [of songs] on this piece of work that mean a lot, so it was a unified spirit. It was as if we were all together at once in the same hall; a lot of the folks were in some way connected and knew each other... spiritually intertwined."
The record features many highlights, from the alluring performance O'Hara gives on 'Out of the Blue' to the spoken-word, barroom feel Cowboy Junkies give 'Clothes Line Saga.' Neil Young also teams up with the Sadies for 'This Wheel's on Fire,' one of three songs the Sadies appears on.
"It all came together very easily," Hudson says of the Young/Sadies collaboration. "I was privileged to watch Neil with Mr. Bob Young backstage in Toronto and London; the concerts in London and Toronto were amazing. And Neil's equipment is not the type you expect, it's not the usual. His amplifiers are very special, a combination of old and new technology. It's an amazing sound, a sound you can't get with digital electronics and digital gear."
Hudson also says Suzie McNeil's work on 'Ain't Got No Home' "knocked us out." But he was definitely surprised by one performance in particular: the song 'Tears of Rage' by Chantal Kreviazuk is well worth repeated listens. "The one I sat everybody down on was Chantal's -- it was amazing," Hudson says. "She played and sang, there's no overdub there -- that's a performance. It's a magnificent vocal piece, but her piano playing is the finest. They are polyrhythmic compositions, I don't want to say gospel, but definitely she could sit in with any choir anywhere."
A portion of the album proceeds benefit Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. And while nothing is confirmed, there is early speculation that a one-off concert celebrating the album could be in the works, possibly around the time the Juno Awards in Toronto next March.
Hudson says there were enough names and material left over to possibly make a second album in the same vein, but for now, he's happy the Band's legacy has remained such an influence on up-and-coming acts.
"The Band's music has been holding its own for a number of years," he says. "I remember after 'The Last Waltz' I began doing a few different musical projects, working with other musicians and doing session work. But there was a period where there weren't very many of the people I met [who] knew anything about it; I could move around and play places, and nobody would seem to recognize me as being among the acclaimed [laughs].
"During the last 15 years it's been pretty steady. There's more awareness of us by people who are passing [on] the music or encouraging their kids to listen, and a lot of the young people are picking up on it -- so let the church roll on."