Singer/songwriter Jim Cuddy of the alt-country band Blue Rodeo steps out onto his own with this charming 11-track set.
The second member of Toronto's Blue Rodeo to go solo. To be honest, much of the CD is not much different from the material Jim Cuddy performs with that band: country-tinged rock that isn't out of place on "new country" radio stations. But, as with Blue Rodeo, there is always an edge that prevents the music from sounding too slick, or too country. And the fact that Blue Rodeo bassist Bazil Donovan and former Blue Rodeo keyboardist James Gray provide backup only adds to the trademark sound that fans have come to expect over the years. This is not necessarily a criticism, as Blue Rodeo have created some great albums, and have worked hard to establish their own distinct sound. But there are a few surprises, mainly in the guise of members of Wilco providing musical backup and vocals for the excellent track "I'll Make Believe It's You," the highlight of the CD. Jeff Tweedy and Jim Cuddy sound great together, and Cuddy knew that Tweedy's vocal style suited the song perfectly. That track is evidence that this CD is not a vanity project for Cuddy. He knows what makes a song sound good, and he utilizes his band and guests (such as Michelle McAdorey and Skydigger's Andy Maize) to achieve that sound. The only problem with this CD is that not all the songs are particularly strong, and there is a certain amount of sameness to much of the material, making some songs indistinguishable from others. This is a CD with fantastic moments, but not quite enough of those moments to create an entirely brilliant album. It is, however, a promising debut disc, and it does show that Cuddy can offer more than what he shows in Blue Rodeo. ~ Aaron Badgley