The closest friendships are often forged in the most trying times and over the longest of nights. The same can be said for musical bonding. During some rough patches 20 years back, there was a stretch where every day would end with an emotionally releasing listen to Outskirts, the debut from Toronto's roots-rocking and soul-popping Blue Rodeo. But even without that deep connection, I'd still be invested in Blue Rodeo's ever-growing catalog, now approaching 20 records with the release of the two-disc The Things We Left Behind. The band's output is a study in how to offer a comforting consistency without making the same record over and over, favoring reinterpretation over reinvention.
What's more, co-founders and co-leaders Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor—Canada's Lennon-McCartney or, at the very least, Farrar-Tweedy—apparently possess insider information regarding my musical sweet spots. Consider "Til I Am Myself Again," a worldwide smash waiting to be discovered from 1990's Casino. With its harmonies, righteous jangle and rural heart, it plays like a troika of Beatles, Byrds and Band. New songs such as "Never Look Back" (oh, but I obviously do) still hit with the same gentle ferocity and indelible friendship. —Rick Cornell