Cris Cuddy ‘The Best Kept Secret’ - Self Release

A musician who resides in Toronto who has played in a number of bands through the years before releasing several albums as a solo artist. His latest is a pretty mixed bag in terms of the musical inspiration on offer. Obviously it is all held together by Cuddy’s vocal and his songwriting. While he may not qualify as the best singer you will ever hear he is more than equal to the task of delivering his songs here.  

There are ballads (The Honey Tree) neo-rockabilly outings(The Best Kept Secret) bluegrass inspired songs (The IBMA Blues) hints of jazz (Amy - a tribute to Amy Winehouse), folk (Whiskey Train) blues (The Luck Of The Draw) and country (Got a Brand New Heartache). There’s also a compelling tale of a gunfighter (The Big Chill). Heartache is in full acoustic and vocal mode is especially memorable with fiddle and mandolin taking the lead. There is much to admire on this thirteen track album that also includes the darker Drive-Thru Daiquiri Bar and shows that despite the various influences at work here the end result is still essentially a Cris Cuddy album. 

Long time associate Keith Glass adds guitar and harmony vocals along with a selection of fine players including Jim Hurst and Steve Conn who, with the other musicians, add a range of instruments that includes keyboards, pedal steel, accordion, harmonica, bass, drums and guitars. All in all a solid roots music outing that has enough variety to keep it from ever getting samey or one-dimensional. Something often only a seasoned performer can bring to their work. Cuddy is also the producer here and he gives his players the room to contribute their best efforts but always in the service of the song. Songs that are built around stories of life, love, loss and lost times.

Cris Cuddy can be added to the list of rewarding Canadian roots musicians who make music that seems less controlled by the dictates of any prevailing mainstream industry and more from the heart. There is no doubt that Cuddy's heart was fully in this music. He has been making music long enough not to be a secret and this album should help to spread the word.

Chris Cuddy 'The Best Kept Secret' - Self Release

Cuddy is an eclectic singer/songwriter who encompasses many different musical directions, although they could all conceivably fit under the broad ‘roots’ banner, over the 13 songs on this, his 10th solo album. Responsible for the writing of all the material featured here, Cuddy has a distinctive enough voice to handle the various ways these songs drift. Players such as Keith Glass, Jim Hurst and Steve Conn join Cuddy and a host of other players who play steel and pedal steel guitar, mandolin, fiddle. harmonica, accordion and keyboards over the bass and drums foundation to give these songs their rootsy flavours. 

Cuddy gives a brief descriptive note under each title that sum up the songs pretty well. For instance Amy is described as “a jazzy tribute to one of the greats who left us too soon”. It is a laid back song with double bass and soft brushed drums and subtle guitar in which Cuddy tells of his feelings of loss for the late singer. By way of contrast IBMA Blues is a bluegrass influenced song that features Jim Hurst and Emory Lester on guitar and mandolin. The title track sounds as if it should be coming out of a ‘50s jukebox where country meets rockabilly. Another song, Whiskey Train, tells of perils of a old soldier who needs alcohol to take many pains away. (Got a) Brand New Heartache sounds like a classic country songs and is finely wrought song with a effective second vocal and prominent fiddle. It is an album highlight.

Drive-Thru Daiquiri Bar is another strong song with accordion that tells of “just another day on the dark side” and Cuddy uses his voice well on the chorus. She Reminded Me of You tells a story with a south of the border feel that is simple in it’s delivery, but memorable in its telling. A slightly heavier tone suits the closing song There Goes My Mind Again, a tale of a slightly unhinged sentiment of a man left alone.

Overall Chris Cuddy is an interesting  writer who can make all of these varied sounds work as an interesting whole and each listener will soon find their own favourites within this collection of songs.