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Since the mid-’80s—before the Jayhawks became intimate with Johnny Cash and before erstwhile punks discovered Gram Parsons—the members of Blue Rodeo have been eclectic ambassadors of alternative country. Having to conjure their aural snippets of Americana from north of the border no doubt contributes to the band’s iconoclasm: Like fellow Canadians the Cowboy Junkies and k.d. lang, Blue Rodeo’s respect for Pasty Cline and Hank Williams is equaled by their desire to approximate the chill of home. On Nowhere to Hide, the band’s fifth release, Blue Rodeo spikes its somber tales of heartbreak with uplift. The lyrics to both “Side of the Road” and “Sky” find hallucinogenic relief in the clouds, while dramatic organ fills and soaring vocal harmonies toy with country music’s debt to gospel tradition. Picking up where they left off with 1993’s “Five Days in July,” songwriters Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor sample bits of ’70s bombast to give their twang the Technicolor treatment: “Save Myself,” the album’s sprawling opener, ambles effortlessly on a subtle funk groove before a ragged guitar break turns the tune into a raucous tribute to John Fogerty; fixate enough on the loungy electric piano that fuels “Brown-Eyed Dog” and you might mistake it for Steely Dan. If only Nashville would give itself up to this sort of musical experimentation, we would never again have to suffer another line dance.

—Brett Anderson