Blue Rodeo's best album -- and the first of a trilogy of brilliant records that would feature the band at its most epic, brave, and experimental (also featuring Nowhere to Here and Tremolo) -- Five Days in July began with Daniel Lanois' advice to the bandmembers that they not be confined by a recording studio, so they dragged their equipment out to Greg Keelor's farmland home and made what is essentially the ultimate "campfire" album. With the exception of the dynamite harmonic cover of Rodney Crowell's "Till I Gain Control Again," the songs have a loose, stoney feel about them -- both Keelor's and Jim Cuddy's works feel like they just kind of organically evolved, which actually makes a whole lot of sense given the circumstances under which they were written and recorded. This is the album that at once solidified Blue Rodeo's position as the main trailblazers of contemporary alt-country and one that became a career-defining benchmark by which all their later work would be measured. The fact that their Small Miracles tour in 2008 was still made up of half of this record should be indicative of its incredible importance in the Blue Rodeo canon. The big hits are here ("Bad Timing," "Hasn't Hit Me Yet," "5 Days in May"), as are some hauntingly famous cameos by Sarah McLachlan ("Dark Angel," "Know Where You Go/Tell Me Your Dream"). With the exception of a few upbeat feel-good numbers along the way, the album is a pretty mellow affair -- a perfect record for perfectly endless listenability. This was the album in which all of Blue Rodeo's artistic and commercial ambitions would come to fruition: to create epic, rootsy, melodic rock; to break through big commercially (in Canada, at least, where they very rightly became huge megastars); and to create for the world new instant classic solid albums -- not just random collections of songs, but the type of flawless album that leaves listeners already breathlessly anticipating what will await them on the next release. Five Days in July is the quintessential and -- along with Nowhere to Here and Tremolo -- defining moment of Blue Rodeo's career to date, and it is proof positive as to why they have remained Canada's all-time greatest band ever since. It would seem an impossible act to follow, if Blue Rodeo hadn't already so effortlessly done so. A bona fide classic, in every sense of the word.