[31 July 2014]
Canada’s Devin Cuddy is a unique talent. Not only is he the son of Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy, he sort of mines the country traditions of his father’s famous band while putting his own spin on things. On his sophomore disc, Kitchen Knife, you’ll hear everything from old fashioned honky tonk sounds to more piano-based jazz and even some blues. While the album is a collage of styles that don’t hang together as well as they should, Kitchen Knife is a showcase of young, promising talent. Devin was born the same week that his father’s band started recording their iconic 1987 release Outskirts. And there’s a intriguing thread of violence that runs throughout the record. Opener and title track is a paean to spousal assault: “And if he hits you, baby / Start swingin’ all around / And if he pushes you down / Well, get up off of the ground / And if he takes all your money / Grab hold of that kitchen knife.” And then the second song “Forty Four” is, of course, in reference to a certain caliber of gun.
Kitchen Knife is astoundingly mature for someone of Devin Cuddy’s age. Merging such diverse styles as cosmopolitan country with gospel-infused sounds, Kitchen Knife is, in many ways, the kind of record that doesn’t get made much anymore. It’s telling that Devin Cuddy’s last album, Vol. 1, was nominated for a Juno Award (which is Canada’s version of the Grammies) for Roots / Traditional Album of the Year. And while Devin Cuddy appears to be a guy who has paid his own dues, he’s very family rooted. Kitchen Knife was produced by Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor, and Devin Cuddy has been known to perform with that group on stage. It’s remarkable to hear a young offspring mining some of the same bluesy country traditions as his father, while retaining his own distinctive voice. Unless you knew the family history of Jim Cuddy, you might not have known that Devin Cuddy existed. Kitchen Knife, for all of its strengths, should change all of that.