Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy broadens his solo scope



By Steve Newton

When you think of Blue Rodeo frontmen Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, it’s easy to picture Cuddy as the Paul McCartney to Keelor’s John Lennon. Cuddy is best known as the sentimental crooner of the pretty hit ballad “Try”, whereas Keelor is most recognized as the wounded, cynical voice of the moody “Diamond Mine”. As Cuddy explains from his Toronto home, he’s heard the Fab Four comparison before, and he’s okay with it—as long as he doesn’t drop down to Ringo status.

“Actually, I’m okay with bein’ any of the Beatles,” he says as an afterthought. “But, you know, there’s so many things that galvanize that [comparison] between Greg and myself: the way we look, the way we sing, the songs that we’re best known for. And of course we understand within the band—12 records later—that it’s not any more appropriate than it was for those guys. They were each capable of doing what the other one did.”

Okay, so maybe Cuddy’s Lennon and Keelor’s McCartney. Either way, both work together brilliantly as singer-songwriter-guitarists in Blue Rodeo. And they do okay on their own as well. In September Cuddy released his second solo album, The Light That Guides You Home, and a month later Keelor issued his third solo disc, Aphrodite Rose. There is no competition between the two, but could Cuddy be a tad jealous that Keelor scooped the incredible Sadies to be his touring band?

“I love the Sadies,” he says, “but I think it’s dead right for Greg. I have a very good band as well; I have some extraordinary players to show off to people.”

Cuddy speaks the truth. He’s got stalwart Blue Rodeo bassist Bazil Donovan in tow, as well as The Light coproducer Colin Cripps, one of Canada’s best guitarists. Cripps’s wife, roots-rocker Kathleen Edwards, sang on one of the CD’s tracks, while Oh Susanna sang on two, and their vocal contributions helped differentiate Cuddy’s latest release from his ’98 solo debut, All in Time.

“The first one was put together to be like a country-rock bar band with a violin,” he points out. “I saw the first coupla go-rounds of Wilco, and I thought, ”˜That’s a great-sounding band.’ This record’s not put together that way; it’s got a much broader aural landscape, and a broader dynamic of songs.”

Cuddy’s new disc opens with the faint sound of birds as the uplifting title track unfolds. “I had them louder at first,” he explains of the chirping noises, “but then I turned around and everybody’s like, ”˜That’s so stupid.’ So I got ’em down so you can just hear ’em.”

Hey, wait a second. Didn’t McCartney use bird chirps too, on that “Blackbird” tune?

That’s it.

Cuddy’s back to being “the cute one” again.

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