September 8, 1998


No Blues In Rodeo
by Kieran Grant


Jim Cuddy has finally decided to give it a try.

   After 14 years sharing the reigns of country-rockers Blue Rodeo, the singer-guitarist lets loose with a debut solo album, All In Time, out today.

   Kicking back in a downtown hotel recently, the characteristically friendly Cuddy says a solo effort doesn't signal the end of his partnership with Greg Keelor, with whom he makes up one of Canada's best-loved songwriting teams.

   Rather, it was that very relationship that helped inspire him.

   "When Greg told me he was going to make his solo album, Gone," Cuddy says, "it was the first time it occurred to me that I had to make real what had been in the back of my mind for years. Greg could easily have just gone off and never come back."

   Ultimately, neither solo effort would interfere with Blue Rodeo. All In Time was recorded over two years. The band cut their 1997 album, Tremolo, in between.

   Cuddy let his songs unfold on their own before deciding where to put them. For the solo work, he assembled a solid backing band with former Crash Vegas and current Junkhouse guitarist Colin Cripps, drummer Gavin Brown, and Blue Rodeo bassist Bazil Donovan. A revolving door policy on guest players led to a late-night studio visit from Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett.  

 "There's a genuine enthusiasm people have when you're making a solo record for the first time," says Cuddy. "I got the benefit of everyone's goodwill. All that was easily enough to propel us through the three or four sessions that we did. It never was work. It was always buoyed by a lot of joy."

   The results are impressive. Cuddy's trademark knack for melody is brought down to intimate levels for warm country heartbreakers, and booted into high gear for rockers.  

 "When I work with Blue Rodeo, all those voices in the band contribute at the same time," he says. "There's no rule, but that's the way it works best. That's how we create our dynamic, emotional aggression."  

 He adds: "With my stuff, the songs are more focused around my voice and I'm telling the story from beginning to end. Because of that these songs became more personal.  

 "You can open it up into the abstract with Blue Rodeo because there's so much going on you're actually painting an impression as opposed to telling a detailed story."  

 All In Time is full of detailed stories that trace the origins of Cuddy's songwriting. He reflects on his post-high school days working in the Rocky Mountains, his and Keelor's salad days trying, and failing, to make it in a rock band in early '80s New York City, only to return home to eventual success.  

 Cuddy's clear voice keeps the tales immediate and wise.  

 "Time frame is really unimportant," says the singer. "You can visit things and perhaps they become more vivid in hindsight. You can paint them in details you now understand."

   Even with 20 years of songwriting experience under his belt, Cuddy had his reservations.  

 "I'm so used to writing in contrast to and companionship with another songwriter. But playing with that new band was reassuring. It pointed out to me all the things I've learned in 20 years. You never think about that when you're with the same group of people."  

 That is, until you go back to the same group.  

 "When I got back to Blue Rodeo I realized how much I enjoyed playing with the guys," Cuddy says with a smile. "It's like coming back to a really loud and boisterous family. It's like, 'You guys are weird, and I love you.' "