Solo Effort Gives Jim Cuddy Perspective On Life with Blue Rodeo
by Andrew Flynn


TORONTO -- Even after spending two years labouring on his own record, Jim Cuddy can't help but see his efforts through Blue Rodeo-tinted lenses.  

 Perhaps that's perfectly natural after spending 13 or so years with the much-loved country-rockers. But it's also an indication of Cuddy's respect for his band, a signal that this new project is meant as a companion piece to Blue Rodeo's body of work.

   "The beauty of Blue Rodeo is the unity of the voices and they have to speak at once," says Cuddy, lounging incongruously barefoot in a posh downtown hotel.

   "If there's too many songs where there's just a single voice and some background stuff it doesn't really represent the group, it's not the way we communicate."

   Cuddy's first solo album, All In Time, does revolve around a single voice and fortunately that voice is Cuddy's crystal-clear, poignant tenor. It's also a revealing counterpoint to his work with longtime songwriting partner Greg Keelor -- who released his own solo album Gone in 1997.

   "With the band I've only had to create half of the picture and in most cases less than half," Cuddy says.

   "My record wasn't like that. My voice was the central feature and I had to sing the story from beginning to end. The rest of the pieces were going to be supporting pieces -- they had to be clear -- but they weren't going to fight for attention.

   "Having the time to be able to create a more complete picture for a record was good."  

 Cuddy had the help of an impressive cast of friends and guests on All In Time. Blue Rodeo bassist Bazil Donovan and Junkhouse guitarist Colin Cripps joined Cuddy for many of the sessions, violinists Melanie Doane, Adele Armin and Curtis Driedger lent their talents, as did Skydiggers vocalist Andy Maize.  

 Fortunate and unexpected arrivals among the musicians who "wandered by" the studio were Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett of the acclaimed American country-rock group Wilco.

   Their performance with Cuddy on the song I'll Make Believe It's You was serendipitous -- a freak moment that just happened to bring his project full-circle.  

 "Their record Being There was an extremely important record," says Cuddy, explaining that Donovan had persuaded Tweedy and Bennett, in town for a concert, to drop by the studio.

   "I have to find some entrance point into writing and usually it's a record. That record completely put me off when I first heard it and then completely absorbed me within a couple of weeks.  

 "You just felt like you were in this huge mansion of songs, there were all these different corners they went to and all these different fields, crazy rag-tag endings and start-ups.

   "It was very inspiring to me, that record, and kind of got me started."

   In the end, Cuddy found the solo record-making process every bit as rewarding as working with the group.  

 "It was so enjoyable, it was hard to stop," he says.  

 "When it was all done and all sequenced and I realized that the record was done I had real trouble letting it go."  

 It was a different experience, to be sure, than the "vaguely democratic" album-making system Blue Rodeo has developed, Cuddy says.  

 "In a way it's more terrifying because any criticism will be more be personal," says Cuddy.  

 "I was very glad to be able to do it, because it's not what I normally do. What I've done for 13 years is operate within a group and a family and I love that family -- it was great to come back after recording my last album and do (Blue Rodeo's) Tremolo.  

 "But it's nice to speak on my own sometimes."