cris cuddy
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cris cuddy


Band Americana Singer/Songwriter


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"This One's Special...Come Along Carmelita"

These are the reviews I hate to write, the ones that rudely raise the skirts of my musical neophyte self and flash the world with the knowledge that I don't know jack. It's a big shock to the ego to find oneself as hopelessly adrift and clueless as I realize I am here. You see, I know Cris Cuddy has been around a while. I know he did some work with Max Mouse and the Gorillas that's been termed "must-have" by the wizened and all-knowing denizens of the six-string universe. I know he counts Mickey Newbury as a friend and mentor. So you'd be within your rights to expect a seasoned, salty, and insightful review here of Cuddy's new effort, Come Along Carmelita, complete with footnotes and obscure references to make it clear I get the historical high points. Instead, since the above is all I know about this artist, you're just gonna get what I think about what's here and now. I don't know where it came from. I only know it's so good I don't care.

If you're into picking adjectives as descriptive and all-inclusive Cliff's Notes for records, this one gets filed under "Smooth." As in silk. That's obvious from the first few bars of "The Checkout Girl." It earns high praise simply because it's no mean feat to make a heavily Cajun-influenced track sound smooth. The two terms just don't seem meant to dance, at least not together, but Cuddy turns in a sweet shuffle of a song here that sounds as if Ole Boudreaux has made his way to Key Largo. Apparently, though, he had the Trailer Park Troubadours rocking in the truck on his way across I-20:

Then all of a sudden I realized
I was staring in a pair of beautiful eyes
That was the first time I ever knew
It was way past time to start forgetting you
That's when I fell in love with the checkout girl
Ever since we met I been doing just fine
And I get a great deal in the checkout line

Of course, having a ringer like Fats Kaplin (Tom Russell, Manhattan Transfer) on the accordion is good for smoothing a few bumps in the road.

What's so unabashedly cool here, though, is that regardless of genre, every track is indelibly stamped with the sweetness of practiced delivery that only the most accomplished and polished musicians can pull off. Couple that brand of sparkling musicianship with a true storyteller's sense of lyric, you find yourself mesmerized in a hurry. From the fiddle-driven turn of the century tale of a wanderer turned convict about to be hanged of "Lyin' In My Dreams" to the nostalgic and beautiful waltz behind "Queen Of the Ball" and its love at first sight theme, Come Along Carmelita serves up visually complete and sometimes stunning slices of life with unrelenting passion and deft ease. Take, for example, the lounge-styled slow jazz number "The Beginning Of the End," whose apparently simple lyric belies a prescient recognition of pain:

I've seen it coming for a while
Tried to hide it with a smile
Now the plans that we made
Are beginning to fade
From view

Blend a martini just right for this one, and let Al Cross' muffled snare sift the sands of uneasiness as the resophonic guitar paints a picture of bleakness replete with dark pleather couches and a black dinner gown walking away.

A standout track, one that highlights the way an adept songwriter can make an obvious point without sliding into the abyss of mediocrity, emerges with the Celtic-sounding and initially bouncy "Henry Morgan the Pirate." The medieval melody, with its near iambic rhyme and driving string bass, is immaculately suited to the tale of a seafaring ne'er-do-well with mighty ambitions. As fate would have it, though, this pirate's plans reach fruition with his son, who's down on Wall Street now:

And Henry's son was no-one's fool, he learned all he would need
To help himself proliferate his father's famous greed
And Junior runs the business now, just like his old man
He's a pirate in the modern world, stealing all he can
And Henry's son became a toff, a veritable tycoon
And he learned to work in a business suit instead of pantaloons.

As relevant as that track seems in today's headlines, its impact fades as the title cut wafts in on a mandolin wind to soothe the lovelorn soul of a wounded beauty. Lushly arranged, yet understated, it's a beautiful and calming effort in reverse psychology as the narrator whispers to the broken heart that "There is no harm I've found/If you live in the ground/There will only be fresh mountain dreams to dream." Will she take the admonishment at face value and wither? Or will she decide to flower once again? Don't know. But the conversation's a gem to overhear, and in its own way sets the stage nicely for the 50's feel of "Just For A Thrill," another track bent on exploring all the crazy things our hearts will do when a lover does them wrong, and all the crazy, precarious places we find ourselves in as a result:

Just for a thrill, I let you love me
Just for a thrill, I let you think that I cared
But the thrill lingers on - David Pilot/ Americana Reviews

"Double the Fun:Keep The Change/Nowhere Town"

This double CD should certainly put Toronto-based Cris Cuddy on the map. The leader of the popular Canadian indie-roots-rock-reggae band Max Mouse and the Gorillas steps out in a big way.
The first disc "Keep The Change" shows Cuddy the singer/songwriter in various settings with Prairie Oyster, Andrew Hardin and the Tom Russell Band and with guests like legendary guitarist Albert Lee, Kevin Breit and Gene Taylor, piano player for the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
The second disc "Nowhere Town" puts Cuddy in Nashville with the equally talented backup crew of George Bradfute playing everyhting from guitars, bass, keyboards, banjo and singing harmony vocals, with Fats Kaplin on steel guitar, fiddle and violin and Steve Ebe on drums.
There's lots of fine original songs and an interesting cover of the Jagger and Richards composition "Tell Me".
Cuddy's mentor, the late great songwriter Mickey Newbury, would be proud.
By Barry Hammond - Penguin Eggs Magazine/Barry Hammond

"A Constantly Changing Group of Bright and Interesting Objects"

Figuratively speaking, the word "kaleidoscope" is defined in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary as a "constantly changing group of bright or interesting objects." For me Cris Cuddy's Come Along Carmelita is a kaleidoscope of musical styles and features numerous concoctions of sound, while employing (track-to-track) a vast panorama of lyrical subjects. The aforementioned musical styles lean predominantly toward roots music influences, although "The Beginning Of The End" comes off as a smooth and smoky, late night, Jazz inflected ballad a la Hoagy Carmichael and Irving Berlin. Frankly, the song could easily have been penned in the nineteen-twenties or thirties.

The disc opens with the Tex Mex flavoured paean of love to the "The Checkout Girl." The late Doug Sahm would have been proud to put his name to the foregoing track. There's a nightmarish and dark side to the turn of the [twentieth] century tale contained within "Lyin' In My Dreams." Hanged and buried for a crime that isn't specifically identified, the poor, illiterate narrator dreams of family members who went north to a city where the "streets is lined with gold." Anyone familiar with the ballroom scene in Michael Cimino's 1980 cinematic masterpiece "Heaven's Gate," should grasp my point when I say that Cuddy's waltz, "Queen of the Ball," would have fitted that segment of the movie like a glove. The vital first sighting is captured simply in the lyric with the [opening] lines, "I was under your spell from the moment I saw you, On the steps of the Wainwright Hotel."

A highly percussive opening fifteen-seconds sets the tone for "Henry Morgan The Pirate," a ballad moulded in the seafaring song tradition that has been spiked with a modern-day lyrical twist. Truth to tell, this Cuddy composition could be interpreted on two levels. The first is that it's a great story song, but the lyric is also a subtle and stinging take on modern day business ethics - or, at least, the significant lack of any. You see Henry sent his fine son to finishing school to "study business ways," and now Junior is in charge of the family finances. These days he's "a toff, a veritable tycoon" who is "a pirate in the modern world, stealing all he can" while bedecked in "a business suit instead of pantaloons."

Cuddy revisits the Tex Mex border sounds in the album title track, while "Way Out West" is a tribute written for, and about, modern day journeymen cowboys - "there's no hidden treasure and hard work is the measure" - while the tune lopes along at an easy going pace. Although the nature of the business of the "two big and swarthy guys" in "What If Frankie Doesn't Like It" isn't precisely stated, they are without doubt gangsters. As the story unfolds it becomes apparent that the pair have been somewhat generous with regard to the disposal of their boss's money on their own personal enjoyment. Contemplating their fate, they recall tales of how Frankie has, in the past, taken folks "for a ride" that included "swimming" as well as the purchase of "a brand new pair of shoes." Cris doesn't have to mention the shoes would be composed of cement. The forty-second long violin solo that introduces the latter song possesses a classical music feel, and appeared as a track titled "A Moment With Heather" credited to the Cris Cuddy Ensemble on Mickey Newbury's 2001 album The Long Road Home. As for the closing cut, "Two Of A Kind," it initially possesses an Eastern European/Russian feel and later evolves into a slow ballad about a pair of life's losers who meet in a hotel bar. One of the pair, the narrator, ponders in the closing line - "Were you ever there at all."

The support players include former Tom Russell Band member and latterly a sideman with the Dead Reckoning crew, Fats Kaplin, Rusty McCarthy [guitar] who has worked with the too-long-invisible Mary Margaret O'Hara, and from Toronto's The Henrys, Don Rooke [guitar]. Kaplin's violin, mandolin and accordion prominently feature on most of the cuts.

Arthur Wood is a contributing editor at FolkWax - Folkwax Magazine/Arthur Wood

"A Gem : Come Along Carmelita"

It's difficult to classify Cuddy's latest solo release Come Along Carmelita into one musical slot.

Here, the onetime frontman for the dance-rock-reggae band, Max Mouse and the Gorillas, turns his lyrical hand to rootsier styles, waving from the opening Tex-Mex Flaco Jiminez-sounding The Checkout Girl to old-time shambling jazz, southern waltzes, country and folk.

On the album's finest cut, What If Frankie Doesn't Like It? Cuddy begins with the most beautiful string arrangement this side of Brahms, before turning to Spanish guitars in a tale about two small-time hoods who've come to the realization that their time is up.

A collection this eclectic always runs the risk of becoming cluttered, but Cuddy ties it all together.

Rating : **** - Ottawa Citizen/Bruce Deachman

"From Italy With Love"

Dear Friends,
last week I received the latest two albums released by the great Cris Cuddy. I already knew the music of Jeremy Dormouse because some time ago I discovered that album in a record shop here and bought it. But whilst that was a sort of psychedelic folk album(in the field of Tom Rapp, Country Joe and stuff like that) that was the son of its time, although a good one, Cris seems to me another musical affair and a very better one indeed. He has absorbed many different forms of roots music to create his own musical style that is pure "Americana" sound and a very enjoyable one. If is frankly hard to say which album I like (well, in fact I count "Keep The Change" and "Nowhere Town" as two distinct musical projects!) but I suppose "Keep The Change" is the one that best represents the eclectic but also organic approch of Mr. Cuddy to American roots music (and it has also some wonderful musicians contributing to it). That's why I already played three tracks from that CD - including the stunning "No Love No Nothin'" which reminds me Roy Orbison in his best days - in my radio shows here, but please note that more music from all those CD's will surely find its way on air here in the next weeks as there is too much good music there to miss it!
That's all for now!
All the best,
Massimo Ferro

MASSIMO FERRO c/o RADIO VOCE SPAZIO ,Alessandria, Italy - Highway 61/Italy

"Double CD : A Wonderful Sprawl"

This double album is the kind of wonderful sprawl Ryan Adams might have made if he wasn’t busy pissing his talent away trying to be a rock star. Two completely different records, it ranges from honky-tonk to Tex-Mex, from swamp-blues to Cajun, and all the way back again. Cris Cuddy has apparently been around since the sixties, including a spell in the gloriously named Jeremy Dormouse, but it’s hard to imagine that he’s ever made a better record than this. With lived-in vocals and a supporting cast including Andrew Hardin (who also produces in parts), Fats Kaplin and Albert Lee, he tells tales of love, life and loss with class and style. Of the two “Keep the Change” is nearer the edge, with hints of Tom Russell along the way, in fact hints of a lot of things, all whirled into a glorious melange that passes all too soon. “Nowhere Town” is more mainstream and rockier, but still doffs its cap to its roots, with echoes of Roy Orbison’s vocal in places. This is a fine pair of albums.

- Americana UK


Come Along Carmelita (Vanishing Castle (CD/VC-44)
Keep The Change/Nowhere Town (2CD/VC-55)
October Morning (CBC Top 10 CD's of 2006)
Heartbeat (with George Bradfute and Fats Kaplin)
Jeremy Dormouse (Hallucination USA Green Vinyl)
Can a Gorilla Sing the Blues ? (Jungle Jukebox EP)
Who is this Max Mouse Anyway? (Jungle Jukebox LP)
Stilla Gorilla (Jungle Jukebox LP)



Cris Cuddy founded the folk group Jeremy Dormouse (with Richard Gullison) and roots rockers Max Mouse and the Gorillas and has written and recorded several projects with each. Legendary Nashville producer Brian Ahern (Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash) described him as "Van Morrison meets Elvis Costello" He has contributed songs to recordings by songwriting legend Mickey Newbury and Juno Awards winners Prairie Oyster (including "Long and Lonesome Old Freight Train" on their great new cd "One Kiss" and Juno winner Tracey Prescott. Cris spent several years playing the bars and ski circuit in Alberta and BC with "Blue Train" "WQRB (World's Quietest Rock'n'Roll Band)" and the "Western Gorillas". His song "Paramount Cafe" is a picture postcard of one of Lethbridge's late great gathering spots and "Way Out West" remembers a different time through the eyes of a cowboy. His "October Morning" CD was chosen one of CBC's "Top Ten of 2006"
Richard Gullison is a veteran of both the Alberta folk & country music scenes, who was first attracted to the guitar by the twangy sound of Johnny Cash's guitar player, Luther Perkins and later discovered and mastered the Spanish influenced guitar stylings of Marty Robbins` guitarist, Grady Martin. A studio presence began with the early recodings of Jeremy Dormouse &
along the way he has recorded with Diamond Joe White, David Wilkie, The Simpson Brothers & the 2003 acclaimed cd by the Sheep River Rounders
"Four Rode By". During that time Richard also produced 2 celtic CDs by world renowned piper Ann Gray. Along his musical journey Richard has shared the stage as a bassist with such musical luminaries as Ian Tyson, Amos Garrett & others. Richard now divides his time between music ventures & running a small ranch raising grass fed cattle with his wife, Elaine.
Rob Loree Alberta born Rob Loree began his musical sojourn as a bluegrass banjo player at the age of seventeen in Calgary. When he discovered Bob Wills and western swing he formed the band, Whisky Ridge, which played both bluegrass AND swing - sometimes in the same song. They soon became the darlings of CBC Radio in Peter Lougheed's prairie kingdom. Switching his focus to guitar he joined several bands including Blue Train with Cris Cuddy and Art Boehm who played the Southern Alberta and BC ski circuits. Rob is also a member of a great western tradition, the Loree Family Band along with cousins Dave, Lance, sister Anne and Richard Gullison