Published Apr 01, 2005The impossibility of categorising Al Tuck is both an asset and a hindrance for this Maritime cult hero. It means he never quite fits on board any bandwagon passing through town, but then Al prefers to sit in the local saloon, nursing a beer and watching it move on by. He's not going anywhere. Thankfully, in his own good time he'll shuffle into a studio and lay down another bunch of songs guaranteed to delight those hip to his laidback charm. His first studio album in four years, 33 1/3 may just be his most seductive collection yet. The understated yet always effective accompaniment features fluent piano, guitar and upright bass, which frames Tuck's affectingly lyrical songs and mellow vocals. The gorgeous opener, "February Snow," needs only a gently strummed guitar to get Tuck's poignant point across. His rich and haunting voice has an old-time character, and his songs incorporate such influences as blues, traditional country, folk and jazz. It's fitting that the only cover song here, "Mona Lisa," was made famous by Nat King Cole, as Al's delivery recalls the effortless stylings of the likes of Cole and Chet Baker. Tempos are varied just enough to keep ennui at bay, as with the jaunty keyboards on "Falling for Catriona" (an album highlight). This disc's title can refer to the speed of a long playing record, and this is one that merits long playing.
There's a live and spontaneous feel to the record. Does that reflect the way it was made? A lot of it we recorded in just one day in Toronto, in Blue Rodeo's studio, the Barn. I used Nick Holmes to engineer, and he used two-inch tape. It was virtually all recorded live. I'm not opposed to tomfoolery, but if you have a good session, just leave it at that.
It's been four years since your last studio album, Brave Last Days. Would you like to record more prolifically? Yes, I would. I have plenty of songs that could be rattled off easily if I get on a roll. I'd like to put another one out in the fall so I can get caught up in terms of representing my material.
When you started making roots-based music in the early 90s, it was far from fashionable. Do you feel amused or vindicated about the whole roots boom? Well it does seem to have swung around more in my direction, the general taste. I'd like to capitalise on that a bit more [laughs]. I wish I could have responded more to a trend as it happened. At the time of my last record, there was more of an alt-country climate and I made like a sleepy dubby record instead. Still, I guess I'd be happy to distance myself from just about anything. (Independent)