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There's no way this band would skip over the Sault (21 photos)

Sunday, November 18, 2012   by: Donna Hopper

Individually, Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden, and Tom Wilson are three talented and highly respected Canadian artists.

Together, this dynamic trio makes up Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (BARK).

And for the last 18 years, the three have developed BARK from the original side project dedicated to the music of Willie P. Bennett, into the current Juno Award-winning full-time band.

"Because we started out playing Willie P. Bennett songs, we learned almost by mistake to serve the music, and serve the task of playing that music the best we can," Tom Wilson told in a recent phone interview. "Although we've evolved into a way of defining ourselves with our writing and the music that we make, the seed of the band is Willie P. Bennett and there's always at least one or two of his songs on our records."

BARK returned to Sault Ste. Marie last Thursday to perform for a sold-out audience of 340 at the Water Tower Inn Pavilion.

Unfortunately, since the boys played here last in the summer of 2007, the band's driving force passed away.

"Sooner or later, all our heroes turn to dust," Wilson said. "Willie was a figure that was always there for us. It was almost like a close member of the family dying. It didn't matter what time or what era, Willie was always doing something I was interested in. But losing Willie just means that we have to be that much better."

This most recent tour supporting their 2011 release, Kings and Queens, is the most ambitious in BARK history, taking the band from Ontario to B.C. with a few stops in the United States.

"We have a bus and a trailer and everything on this tour," Wilson told the audience between songs Thursday night. "It's like we're f**king Aerosmith or something."

But just because this is a big tour on a big bus supporting a big album with big special guests, including Roseanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Serena Ryder, Lucinda Williams, Cassandra Wilson, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Sam Phillips, Patti Scialfa and Holly Cole (to name a few), this doesn't mean smaller stops like the one in the Sault hold any less meaning to the band.

"There's no way we were going to go out on this tour and not play Sault Ste. Marie. We love it there," Wilson told "Smaller pockets along the tour like the Sault and Port Dover and Swift Current are just as important to us as Vancouver and Toronto and Ottawa."

Joining BARK on this big tour is Harlan Pepper, a young talented alt-country foursome that includes Wilson's son, Thompson, on bass and vocals.

"Blackie and the Rodeo Kings are amazing, and the opening band was just as amazing," we overheard one audience member say.

It's true and the lads likely gained a slew of new Sault fans judging by the crowd's glowing response to their set.

According to Wilson, traveling and performing with his son is an easy task since his children (Thompson and daughter Madeline) are his best friends.

"I never would have survived without them. They're the most important things in my life," he said.

The BARK Kings and Queens tour continues through November into December with stops in Swift Current, Saskatchewan; Edmonton, Alberta; and Courtenay, BC.

To learn more about Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, please click here

For more information about Harlan Pepper, please click here

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