Catching up with the Skydiggers
One day, if someone with perfect penmanship and a great memory for details takes up music historian Pete Frame’s Rock Family Trees project and plots the development of the Canadian roots rock community, they may discover that many — if not all — branches and roots at some point interconnect with the Skydiggers.
The Skydiggers: The Truth About Us
Other bands with links to that broadly-defined scene (Blue Rodeo, Sarah Harmer, Kathleen Edwards, The Tragically Hip, Cowboy Junkies) have gone on to greater recognition, but for 20 years, the Skydiggers have quietly built a songbook that rivals those peers in every category, except possibly the recognition part.
Why aren’t the Skydiggers better known? Here’s some theories. Although the three core members have remained in place for 20 years — singer Andy Maize, bassist Ron Macey, guitarist Josh Finlayson — there has been a bit of a revolving door in the band’s human resources department. And likewise, their label affiliations have been in flux, which has made some key parts of their catalog unavailable for periods of time. They’ve never been ones to let family commitments take a continued back seat to professional obligations, so the marathon intercontinental tours that typically yield a broader international reputation have not consistently been part of their standard operation. More importantly, the Skydiggers have always demonstrated a kind of amiable obstinance about how they conduct themselves and an integrity about evading opportunities that involve some kind of compromise. Whatever that might mean for the group’s fortunes, it hasn’t changed the quality of their work.
Skydiggers: I Will Give You Everything
Even as the world found other distractions, the Skydiggers have solidified an enviable Canadian following and created a stellar body of music that finally gets the compilation it always deserved on The Truth About Us: A 20 Year Retrospective (available from MapleMusic.com May 26).
The nicely-appointed set includes 22 tracks taken from across the Skydiggers’ 11 album discography, with a couple of tracks present in alternate or re-recorded form. There’s also their superlative version of “Good King Wenceslas,” originally issued on a promo cassingle back in the day and now a seasonal favorite at the band’s annual string of holiday shows at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern.
There’s also a booklet featuring testimonials by Harmer, Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy, The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie and — full disclosure — an essay by me. To sweeten the deal, there’s a DVD included with a beautifully-shot performance by the band’s current lineup, taken at Toronto’s Dakota Tavern and filmed for CMT Canada’s The Dakota Sessions program.
This is a pent-up body of work that is long overdue for wider recognition. Dig in.