What was old is new again, thanks to Jim Cuddy’s insatiable desire to exercise his vocal chords four times a week.
With one-half of the members of Canadian country-rock band Blue Rodeo putting a cap on gigs, the co-founder and co-frontman is again going solo (kind of) with a new (kind of) album and a new tour to keep his voice in shape and his creative drive in gear.
His Countrywide Soul album is a celebration of the past, reworked, with two covers and two new songs while the Countrywide Soul Tour is a celebration of the incredible musical talents of Blue Rodeo’s Colin Cripps on lead guitar and Anne Lindsay on fiddle, Cuddy explained to 850 adoring Okanagan fans.
The result: a spectacular sold-out show at Kelowna Community Centre on Thursday night.
The 90-minute-plus concert with the acoustic trio on guitars, fiddle (and briefly, on piano) was significantly different than the album recorded by the Jim Cuddy Band which features Cuddy, Cripps, Lindsay, Blue Rodeo’s Bazil Donovan on bass, drummer Joel Anderson and keyboardist Steve O’Connor.
The live-off-the-floor sessions were recorded on the top floor of a barn on the family farm north of Toronto over four days to give it “the woody sound of the barn-board room.”
The 15-song setlist (three in the encore) for Thursday’s show was a history lesson, not only for Blue Rodeo and Cuddy’s solo work, but ancient hits like Rhinestone Cowboy (1975, Glen Campbell).
All in Time is on the new album but it is also the title track from his 1998 solo debut All In Time. It Could Happen to You was a Blue Rodeo song from 1997’s Tremolo. The song While I Was Waiting was from 2018’s Constellation. Try, which led off the encore, was a monster Blue Rodeo hit from 1987’s Outskirts.
Two new songs on the album and in the concert were Back Here Again and Glorious Day which perfectly matched the historical, reworked material.
Cuddy also retold some of his favourite stories: Married Again (2006, The Light That Guides You Home) was written after he read a newspaper story about a couple going to Las Vegas to sign their divorce papers, signing them, getting drunk and getting remarried in a midnight chapel.
The song Constellations, from the Constellation album, was penned after a drunken evening on the farm when buddies tried unsuccessfully to find the Big Dipper in a sky full of stars to name a star after one of them.
The musical highlights, though, were several solos from the amazing Cripps and Lindsay, the latter a sensation on the main stage (twice) at last year’s Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival. A roar of audience approval followed each solo.
The coup de grace was the finale of Wash Me Down, a Cuddy solo tune from 2011’s Skyscraper Soul. Cuddy, Cripps and Lindsay were joined by openers Sam Polley (Cuddy’s son) and his bandmate Fraser Melvin performing on the edge of the stage without their microphones and amplifiers. The audience softly crooned the chorus of “Wash me down” for a final magical moment.
Cuddy set a high standard for the start of 2020. We’ll see if anyone can top this.
J.P. Squire is a retired reporter with the Kelowna Daily Courier.