The latest Cuff the Duke LP regenerates an early-1950s country aesthetic, combined with the best parts of 1990s Canadiana.
Morning Comes is the latest full-length release from Oshawa indie alt-country favourites Cuff the Duke—although perhaps it is misleading to classify the album as either indie, or alt-country. One expects obscurity and exclusivity with such terms, and Morning Comes is highly accessible. While the LP is technically “indie”—it’s being released through local indie label Paper Bag Records—there is something irrefutably mainstream about Morning Comes.
This is not meant as any sort of burn. On the contrary; the hi-fi sounding Morning Comes simply deserves a lot of mainstream play, and will likely appeal to a broad range of listeners.
Cuff the Duke re-enlisted Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor to co-produce the album (Keelor also co-produced Cuff’s last full-length, 2009’s Way Down Here). While the Blue Rodeo influence is significant in terms of sound, structure, and instrumentation, there is nothing wrong with organs recorded properly and the satisfying crunch of bright guitars. “Time is Right” and “You Don’t Know What It’s Like” sound as polished as a Tom Petty radio single, with easy-to-remember hooks and catchy choruses.
It’s hard not to pull a “Don’t Speak” on the rest of the band when identifying special, stand-out qualities of the album. Still, it is primarily through frontman Wayne Petti’s sublime vocals that Morning Comes transcends the influence of its Blue Rodeo predecessors. On “Bound To Your Own Vices,” Petti’s voice hearkens back to the sentimental frailty of Hank Williams, and his unselfconscious conviction in relating experiences of loneliness deeply resonate throughout the album.
Morning Comes is reminiscent of a pre-1950s country music style, and a refreshing return to sincerity in Canadian country music. As a result of its seemingly incongruous juxtaposition of melancholy lyrics with rich, satisfying, 1990s Canadiana tones, Morning Comes is a great album to play on a fall drive up north with friends, and equally appropriate for a cold wintry drive home alone.