Thursday, October 6, 2011


I like how you don't have to live in the same town anymore if you're in a band.  At least Cuff is doing it, with Dale Murray happily hanging in Nova Scotia, joining the group when gigs are happening or there's recording to do.  All it takes is some flexibility, and given Murray's versatility on stringed instruments and vocals, I'm sure the rest of the Toronto-base band are happy to compromise when needed.  That's my little aside, to get in a plug for the Maritimer, which is kinda what I do, being a cheerleader and all.

Now, on to the review proper, and we're certainly in a purple patch as far as Cuff's career is going.  2009's Way Down Here was an attention-grabbing breakthrough, and now the group is releasing the first of two connected albums, the second coming soon, after a major tour.  Singer/songwriter Wayne Petti has announced it's a big concept, about losing someone from your life, and the changes, confusion and loneliness that brings.  Gradually you deal with it, and then new opportunities arise.  The good stuff is going to come on the next disc, the high Petti calls it, while this is the low, where you're wondering if it's all worth it.

Woo-hoo!  Happy stuff, huh?  The good news is you don't have to hear the album on that level at all.  I even knew the concept, and didn't feel it at all, because the music and singing is so good, and the lyrics are somewhat obscure.  While it's produced by Greg Keelor, like Way Down Here, and the group is firm friends with the Blue Rodeo gang, opening shows and sharing the stage, they are actually more like The Sadies.  You don't find Cuddy-like sentimental ballads, but rather 60's fired guitar country, the legacy of twangy instrumentals and The Byrds of that decade.  There are some longer workouts, spacey licks, cool pedal steel, and fine guitar picking.  Plus Petti is a top-notch singer, with a weary-but-wise quality.  Yes, there's more of a frown than a smile in the mood of the songs, but given the excellence of the performance, I come away pretty stoked.  I'm a little sorry I'm not paying attention to the carefully-planned theme of the disc, but maybe I'll get to it someday.  I'm having too good a time for sadness right now.

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