Book Review: On A Cold Road


Start building your playlist of Canadian artists now, because this is one book that can only be complemented by loud rock and roll in the background.

On a Cold Road is Dave Bidini’s memoir of the experiences he encountered while touring with his band, the Rheostatics, in the 1980s and 1990s. Starting with his musical education as a child and building up to when the Rheostatics toured with the Tragically Hip in 1996, Bidini has written a fascinating account of the life of a few kids trying to break into the music business.

This book and the stories within are organized by province rather than chronologically, which makes for an interesting departure from the usual path of a memoir. Bidini writes about spending hours on a tour bus in a massive snowstorm, playing in seedy bars located in tiny rural towns, and playing hockey with Gord Downey and the others from the Tragically Hip. These stories are intrinsically Canadian and are enough to make the reader want to drop everything and hit the road for a simpler life, talent or no talent.

Bidini interviewed dozens of Canadian musicians during the creation of this book. In between his own stories from the road he has strewn in their memories, including stories from Bruce Cockburn, the Guess Who, Tommy Chong (yes, that Tommy Chong) among many others. These anecdotes add another layer to Bidini’s tale, and are a lot of fun to read.

Any music lover, Canadian or not, will find this memoir compelling and insanely easy to keep reading. It’s normal to begin reading the chapter on British Columbia and not look up again until Quebec. On another note, this book got me curious about listening the Rheostatics’ music, and I think I’ve just found my next favorite band. You won’t regret picking up On a Cold Road– and while you’re at it, check out the Rheostatics.

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