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You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. Those words from another Canadian musical great certainly ring true for the fans of Prairie Oyster who were eager for a new album from their honky-tonk heroes. Thing is - the band never went away, but the gap between their records has shown how invaluable their contribution to Canadian roots music has been.
Now, the wait is over. Prairie Oyster is back and their new album, One Kiss, finds them at the very peak of their form. With more than 30 years under their well-worn belt, the band has amassed twelve new songs that is arguably their best work of their illustrious career.
Their eighth record (and OpenRoad debut), One Kiss, is the sound of life-long friends getting together to make music for all the right reasons. It's relaxed, intimate and as comfortable as your favourite woolen sweater - mirroring the creative environment established by the group. This is the first fully self-produced Prairie Oyster album and they clearly thrived on this challenge.
The project came together at Audio Valley, guitarist Keith Glass' own top of the line recording studio in Perth, Ontario. "Half the band was staying in my house," explains Keith, "we'd just go up the street to the studio in the morning and do it when we felt like it. There were no real time restraints, and I think the results speaks to that."
"Doing this totally on our own was great," adds lead vocalist/bassist Russell deCarle. "I'm really proud of the fact it went so smoothly. I believe this is our best record to date, in terms of the collection of songs and the playing." Keyboardist Joan Besen seconds these sentiments: "This was the easiest record to make as we weren't answerable to anyone at any level of decision-making. There was no outside agenda here."
Joining the core Prairie Oyster lineup of Keith, Russell, Joan, John P. Allen (fiddle) and Dennis Delorme (pedal steel) were drummer John Adames, Frank Barth (trombone) and Chris Whiteley (trumpet) and special guests including Don Reed (fiddle) and Jacksoul's Haydain Neale (guest vocal on "High Water"). One Kiss was mixed by one of North America's best engineers, L.Stu Young (Prince, David Wilcox), an old friend of the band who'd worked on their breakthrough 1991 album, Everybody Knows.
One Kiss is an artistic triumph that wraps up the manifold strengths of Prairie Oyster into one irresistibly charming package. The band covers more bases than baseball, incorporating traditional country, western swing, folk, bluegrass, rock 'n' roll, blues, Tex-Mex, and gospel flavours with a graceful ease.
From the haunting "Too Bad For Me" through to the "Oysterized" takes on classics like "Mona Lisa" and Bob Dylan's "Threw It All Away" to their fresh originals "One Kiss," "Open Up Your Heart" (a classic Oyster shuffle), "I Wish I'd Never Known Love," and "Short Time Here" - the band never put a foot out of step on this stellar 12-song collection.
During their hiatus, Keith put out a solo album, Straight Ahead in 2002 and is now in demand as a producer, Russell has been writing and singing with the Be-Bop Cowboys (as well as working on a solo album), and Joan has worked with such artists as songsmith David Celia and took over the co-producer's role for band mate John P. Allen's 2005 solo record, The Canadian Fiddle (Violin).
The pigeonhole-proofed Prairie Oyster has never been swayed by prevailing musical trends and their never-wavering musical integrity helps account for both their longevity and the deep affection with which they are viewed by roots music lovers across Canada and beyond. Those fans include the legendary Merle Haggard, Los Lobos' Steve Berlin (who produced their 1990 disc Different Kind Of Fire), and Doug Sahm.
Their early '90s albums Different Kind Of Fire, Everybody Knows, and Only One Moon scored major commercial success in Canada (platinum-plus for Everybody Knows) and serious critical acclaim in The United States. A series of radio hits and a trophy case of industry awards followed. A tally of six Juno Awards, eleven CCMA's, and fourteen RPM Big Country Awards has solidified their reputation as Canada's premier roots music ensemble.
It is Prairie Oyster's music, not their impressive history that speaks most eloquently. A listen to One Kiss will guarantee you fall in love with it all over again.