Jim Cuddy The Light That Guides You Home

With his position as the "sensitive” half of Blue Rodeo’s songwriting partnership all but irrefutable at this point, this second solo effort from Cuddy thankfully shows that he still has some gritty country rock left in him. Teaming with guitarist/producer Colin Cripps as he did on 1998’s All In Time, the overall sound of Light doesn’t push many new boundaries, but from the opening notes of the title track the band flexes a lot of muscle. This pushes Cuddy’s ageless voice to unexpected heights, and his exuberance at fronting a different cast of characters is palpable throughout. The rousing duet with Cripps’s better half, Kathleen Edwards — "Married” — is the most obvious example of Cuddy daring to cut loose a little, but it’s impossible to gloss over his time-tested songwriting craftsmanship. Yet, even the expected ballads contain a fresh spark. "Pull Me Through” features strings and a muted trumpet solo that are a welcome break from Cuddy’s normal formula, while "She Gets Down” grooves along at a lilting pace reminiscent of Nilsson’s "Everybody’s Talkin’.” These little facets are what ultimately make The Light That Guides You Home engaging; a major victory, considering how Cuddy’s work in Blue Rodeo has become so ingrained with anyone in Canada within earshot of a radio over the past 20 years. The fact is, the man is one of this country’s great songwriters, and this album is a timely reminder to not to take him for granted. (Warner)