The enigmatic P.E.I. songwriter snuck this album out last year digitally at first, but now it's also available on disc, and he's on a multi-date tour to promote it. It's a surprise this one, as Tuck decided to dive full-on into country, and not your oh-so-trendy alt-country either. Instead, he took his inspiration from the most country of folks, including that Island son, Stompin' Tom Connors. The album even opens with Tuck's fine take on the Connors classic To It And At It, followed by his own tribute to the man, Stompin'TomConnors.com.
With the help of countrypolitan backing vocalists The Carmichael Singers, and lots of steel and fiddle and small town charm, Tuck goes through a broad range of off-kilter ideas, from charming to brilliant. Stop Hittin' On Louise is a message that God sees everything, from the smallest sparrow, to a guy in a strip bar who won't leave one dancer alone. Dolled Up is about being held hostage in a one-bathroom house while little sister is getting ready to go out.
Tuck then drops a bombshell, a version of Always On My Mind that would make Willie himself cry, reminding us that he knows all about the magic and beauty of melody, and how the best songs are often the classics. The album's true centre is next, another pretty one at first, but soon it shows itself as one of Tuck's very intense, dark and nasty post-relationship numbers, (Gotta Love) These Lies. He skilfully repeats the word 'lies' in almost every line, and just as skilfully lets you know the real torment here is the singers, still tangled in love, with the only hope that maybe the lies he counts will come home to roost on the other party at death's judgement. Yes, heavy stuff, akin to Elvis Costello's similar epic I Want You, but still country too, the darkest kind, and country can be really dark.
More follows, and as usual Tuck gives us a lengthy, full set, his ideas flying thick and fast. It's also the best-sounding of his records to my ears, largely recorded by Aaron Comeau (Skydiggers, Sam Cash), with a surprising warmth and intimacy, especially in the lead vocals. Check out Al Tuck on tour with these dates coming up:
Tuesday, July 19 - All Saints Anglican Church, St. Andrews NB
Wednesday, July 20 - Taco Pica, Saint John, NB
Friday, July 22 - Octopus' Garden, Alma, NB
Saturday, July 23 - Nook and Cranny, Truro, NS
Sunday, July 24 - St. John's Anglican Church, River John, NS
Mon - Tue, July 25 - 26 - White Point Beach Resort, White Point NS