- Source: See
- Author: Tom Murray
- Date: 05-1-2004
He might well be the secret link that binds the new wave of Canadian country rock bands together. He's certainly someone they all agree on. In the short period of time that pedal-steel-player Bob Egan has been in our country, he just seems to have taken over. Even Egan thinks it's funny.
"I was talking to the Sadies, who just came off the road, and they were saying people kept coming up and telling them, 'Oh yeah, we know Bob,' or 'Bob Egan played on our record' all across Canada."
Originally hailing from the U.S., Egan made his mark with Freakwater in the mid-1990s. A crossover tour with Wilco resulted in his being asked to join that band for the album Being There through to the Mermaid Avenue collaborations with Billy Bragg. He hit Canada as a backup musician, working as part of the Billy Bragg band that played the Folk Festival a few years back. Within a year he was Canada's first choice for pedal steel, turning up on the Tragically Hip's Phantom Power, Neko Case's Furnace Room Lullaby and Oh Susanna's Johnstown. It was at the latter session that he first met Blue Rodeo bassist Bazil Donovan, who struck up a rapport with the guitarist. The two ended up touring Norway together, and Egan was eventually asked to join Blue Rodeo. The guitarist characterizes the resulting 150 shows in one year as "a pretty intense introduction to Canadian culture," but also seems to be enjoying his tenure with the easygoing icons of Canadian country rock.
"We're just finishing up our next record, and that will be coming out in October. In October the Rodeo will hit it really hard, the big tour behind the record. It's part of the cycle, but between now and then, we're not going to be working much, so every spare moment I have will be used towards making the most of this wonderful opportunity."
Recorded in Greg Keelor's farmhouse studio in the winter of 2001, The Promise is Egan's second solo album and a considerable leap from his 1999 debut. The songs are co-written by Bazil Donovan, while the band includes such well-regarded musicians as Donovan, Travis Good (the Sadies), Richard Bell (Janis Joplin, the Band) and Blue Rodeo bandmate Glenn Milchem, with the Be Good Tanyas popping in for some background harmonies. In preparation for a May release, Egan has already started to work on the new album, having just returned from a bare-bones tour of Europe, where he hooked up with Richard Buckner for a few shows. Ready for anything, Egan not only opened the shows with his own material, but also lugged his pedal steel around in order to back up Buckner. The hard work has started to pay off, as Egan was gratified to learn.
"We played in Manchester, in this really seedy, bad neighbourhood. We were pretty tired from London, and a lot of people came out. During my opening set, it became apparent that these people knew the songs from my first record. I was blown away; afterwards I sold a whack of records, and people kept coming up to me saying how much they liked my record. And so there's this little pocket in Manchester." He laughs happily. "Fans of Bob, right?" He's rounding them up one by one, but that doesn't seem to phase the indefatigable steel-player.
"I'm grateful for opportunity to work at music. I'm a very lucky man. The thing is, I owe it to the craft, y'know? I'm in the rare position of being able to make a living at playing music, and I don't take that for granted at all. That's probably the tenth time I've said that," he notes wryly. "But I think what that means is that there's a responsibility: step up to the plate, and learn and grow."
Bob Egan helps the New City Likwid Lounge celebrate their fifth anniversary with guest Robin Hunter, who isn't such a bad guitarist himself.