Cuff the Duke

Life Stories for Minimum Wage

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It's easy to understand why the members of Blue Rodeo have taken a shine to these Oshawa, Ontario natives. On their debut disc (which was re-released in 2007 after their major-label debut proved to be a hit), they wear their BR influences proudly. From the gorgeous opening "Blackheart" through the driving "Hey Baby" and on through the rootsy "The Difference Between Us," Cuff the Duke share Blue Rodeo's eclectic love of genre-hopping and (bizarrely enough) Americana and prog rock influences. Is it alt-country ("Blackheart")? Is it alt-rock ("Anti-Social")? Or is it some entirely new hybrid altogether? The last of these is probably the closest to a correct answer, although their debut has much more of a lo-fi feel than their major label follow-ups. They still like to jump across genres, they just do it more organically than the epic song structures they would eventually adopt for their Hardwood albums indicate. They still like to play around with the production knobs ("Long Winter"), but -- overall -- the album has a much more accessible, homemade feel to it than their later works ("Hobo Night Stalker" and "Lonely Path" are pretty contemporary sounding, definitively alt-country numbers.) The instrumental "The Ballad of a Lonely Construction Worker," and "Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump" hint at the more experimental work they would do with Paul Aucoin on successive albums. And the album ends with one of the catchiest whistling songs this side of Guns N' Roses' "Patience" ("The Trouble and the Truth"), which points the way deliciously towards Cuff the Duke's career of genre hopscotch to come. Note that this is the only CTD album to feature founding drummer Brad Fudge.

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