Jim Cuddy is a creative songwriting tour-de-force. He is so overloaded with song ideas that he needs two bands; Blue Rodeo and his own Jim Cuddy Band to contain this outflow of creativity. And even then, he has achieved additional co-writing and performing outlets with the likes of Corey Hart and Barney Bentall.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at Cuddy’s last two years of activities. After completing the last Blue Rodeo album `1000 Arms’ in the summer of 2016 and completing a busy touring schedule to support that release, Cuddy rounded up Basil Donovan (bass) Colin Cripps (guitar), Joel Anderson (drums), Steve O’Connor (keyboards) and Anne Lindsay (violin/fiddle) and took them into the studio to record, `Constellation’ in 2018, his own band’s fourth release, which he again supported with a 30-date national tour through February.
But he didn’t stop there. Eager to capitalize on the band’s current activity, Cuddy herded his troops into the barn at his central Ontario farmhouse, and in just three days, laid down 12 tracks live off the floor for a new release titled `Countrywide Soul’.
“I said to everybody I wanted to do a live recording so we set up in the barn with the mobile truck and I told them we had three days,” enthused Cuddy. “We had the Monday to set up and we recorded like four songs a day for the next three days and I think we had a gig on the Friday. We’d finish by seven p.m. and have dinner on the lawn. Everybody was happy with the sessions; it was like a reward for their touring efforts.”
`Country Wide Soul’ features two new Cuddy compositions; “Back Here Again” and “Glorious Day” which serve as the parameters for the other 10 tracks, two of which are covers of Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” and George Jones’ “Almost Persuaded”, two are reworks of previous Blue Rodeo tracks; “Clearer View “and “Draggin On” and the rest are remakes of previous Cuddy Band recordings; “All In Time”, “Countrywide Soul”, “Everybody Cries”, “The Light That Guides You”, “Maybe Sometime” and “Wash Me Down”.
“I don’t suffer from dissatisfaction with old recordings, however, the two Blue Rodeo songs were definitely taken out and redone because I didn’t feel the original versions were finished,” Cuddy allowed. “I didn’t think “Clearer View” was written fully and “Draggin On” was a really nice recording but I felt it should have been sung as a duet between people who were comfortably accepting the end of their relationship, so I brought in Kathleen Edwards to add the female vocals.”
“Those were little niggling things I wanted to fix but other than that, it was just a matter of laying the songs out and seeing if they could handle a different interpretation,” he continued. “And having the overall principle of making the songs sound more countrified and rural made it easy to pick the instruments. I wanted enough players playing at the same time so there would be no overdubs.”
Cuddy specifically structured the arrangement for “Back Here Again” to spotlight the fiddle talents of Anne Lindsay whose abilities sometimes get lost amidst the arrangements of previous studio albums.
“Sometimes the band’s talents get a little short-changed, especially in terms of Anne Lindsay,” Cuddy noted. “She’s featured a lot more on this record than she was on `Constellation’. She is an amazing live performer and we wanted to capture some of that magic on this recording.”
“Rhinestone Cowboy” is a staple of the Cuddy Bands’ live set and he was excited to tackle Glen Campbell’s classic. “We used to do “Galveston in the early days of Blue Rodeo,” enthused Cuddy. “People don’t realize it but “Rhinestone Cowboy” is the perfect three-minute song. It has a much more complicated guitar structure than you can imagine, the song has a really wide vocal range and there’s a lot of story in those two verses. We perform it live and people are singing along and they don’t always know why they know the words, but they do. It always brings a smile to their faces.”
The George Jones cover, “Almost Persuaded” was a song that earned praise from a certain female fan back in their Horseshoe Tavern days, “It’s challenging, it’s fun to sing and I’ve been singing it for years, I just needed the right set of circumstances to record it,” Cuddy explained.
Cuddy agrees that he has a plethora of songwriting ideas and that his band serves as a creative outlet for material that doesn’t always fit Blue Rodeo. “Sometimes, it’s a little overwhelming, the band boasts two distinctive songwriters in me and Greg Keelor and sometimes my ideas are not what Greg wants to do and I totally respect that,” he allowed. “So it’s nice to have your own band and say, I’m just going to go the farm and make my own record in three days!”
Cuddy is painfully aware that neither Blue Rodeo nor his own band receives anything like the radio exposure or the unit sales that they used to achieve but he also observes a plus side to this dilemma.
“The current milieu for record sales has created a problem but at the same time, it’s also solved a problem,” Cuddy analyses. “We don’t get played extensively on radio like we used to but people who listen to our music don’t listen to radio anymore. I never feel like people who are interested in our music don’t know we have a new record out. Thanks to social media it’s like we have an end around radio. I don’t think we’ve ever had as many people attend our concerts as we have had recently, they always seem to know when and where we are playing, these days even baby boomers are savvy to social media, it’s never been easier to find out what is going on.”
Cuddy continued his whirlwind of activity by joining Corey Hart on stage at Toronto’s Budweiser Stage to perform “First Rodeo” a track they co-wrote and he’ll be back at the Budweiser Stage later in the year with Blue Rodeo who are also set for a number of summer festival appearances.