Cuff the Duke Sidelines Of The City

It is a decidedly different Cuff the Duke stepping out on this, their third album. The indie roots rock favourites have replaced half their line-up since 2005’s self-titled disc, but any internal dislocation is inaudible here. The addition of guitarist Dale Murray (ex-Guthries) is a smart one, resulting in a notably beefier guitar sound, while returning producer Paul Aucoin balances all the different sonic elements nicely. Here, CTD gracefully slip out of any alt-country straightjacket by delivering a disc audacious in its stylistic adventurousness. They are equally convincing on piano ballads, soulful falsetto-driven tunes and boisterous rockers, and the compassionate social conscience on display is equally refreshing. As proof of their eclecticism, check out standout cut "Surging Revival,” a catchy tune featuring a convincing falsetto from Petti and a keyboard sound reminiscent of Supertramp or ELO. Another highlight is "Failure To Some,” a soaring, epic ballad with a slight Blue Rodeo feel and Neil Young-like guitar work. The remaining songs are equally varied, from the affectionate homage to their Oshawa hometown ("Rossland Square”) to an anti-war song ("The Ballad Of The Tired Old Man”) that features a mariachi-style horn section component. Even when Petti slips with a lyrically trite "on the road” song ("Long Long Road”), it is redeemed by the sheer sincerity of his delivery on "I Love This Land With All My Heart” and Murray’s raggedly glorious guitar break. This band’s time to move from the sidelines to mainstream mass acceptance is now. (Hardwood/Universal)