One of my longtime favourite Canadian indie acts, Cuff The Duke, passed through town earlier this week. So concert wingman Bryan and lady friend Kristen and I trotted off to the Ebar in downtown Guelph to see the show. On a side note, hats off to the Ebar for booking some great shows lately. In the last month I’ve seen Belle Starr, Odd Years and now Cuff The Duke. It is a great small venue with pretty good acoustics and the atmosphere is great (on the nights when the yuppies that don’t give a shit about the music aren’t there).
So the line-up for this particular evening had Danni Nash opening followed by Odd Years and then finally Cuff The Duke. I knew of Dani Nash by name only. She is a regular at the famed Dakota Tavern in Toronto. I was not familiar with her music. The jury is still out on that, I have to hear more (which is a good thing). She has a powerful voice. Her guitar player, who looked like the illegitimate love child of the Unabomber and Chewbacca, was stellar!! My first impression of Dani was that she was another of the people trying to revive old style country & western (and while some folks are good at that i.e. Lindi Ortega, there are way too many trying). But by halfway through the first song I realized she was more than that. There is some heavy blues in there and some raw rock and roll all mixed together. I will keep you posted once I get a chance to hear her entire album.
Next up was Odd Years. Led by my friend, AJ Johnson, Odd Years is half of Cuff The Duke along with members of Octoberman and Minotaurs. They released their debut album last month at the Ebar. I was there but didn’t write a review. Shame on me. I will sit down and write about their album, “Drawing Lines”, one of these days. It is very good. By the time Odd Years took the stage the room was pretty packed. Their set was great, playing a lot of the tracks from the album. I have to say that AJ’s mannequin arm mic stand freaks the hell out of me. But I digress.
By the time Cuff The Duke went on after midnight the crowd had waned considerably. No fault of Cuff’s but rather the venue’s I think. If you’re going to have three bands on the bill in Guelph on a Wednesday night then you have to start earlier than 10:30. This isn’t Toronto. The lower numbers meant all the more enjoyment for those of us that stayed. What I really liked about Cuff’s set is that it was all electric. Since the release of the “Union” album last year the band has taken a much more electric approach while still maintaining that Cuff The Duke sound we have grown to love of the last decade. A lot of old material worked its way into the set namely “The Ballad Of Poor John Henry”, “Take My Money And Run”, “Belgium Or Peru”, “Hobo Night Stalker” and a crowd shout-out request in the encore “Ballad Of A Lonely Construction Worker”. I like all Cuff’s material but I LOVE the old stuff, especially the self-titled second album. I think after all the Cuff shows I’ve been to this was the first time I have heard “John Henry” done live. What a treat! In talking to lead singer Wayne Petti, another friend of mine, after the show it looks like their label, Paperbag, is working to finally release the self-titled album and its follow-up “Sidelines of the City” on vinyl. That is fantastic news and the reason for the older material in the set.
Wayne and Bryan and I were talking guitars after the show and I was looking at Wayne’s newly acquired ’65 Fender Jazzmaster. I am a big Fender fan and have several Teles and a couple Strats but I have been looking Jazzmasters and Jaguars (the cousin of the Jazzmaster) for quite some time. I think I need to find one that I like. Fair warning to my wife that I might buy another guitar (not that she ever reads anything I write here).
All in all, great night. Cuff The Duke was awesome. I really enjoyed Odd Years and Dani Nash.