Release Date: May 14, 2013
Cameron House Records; 15 Tracks
Review by: Lee Fraser
Al Tuck, the inimitable story-teller, releases seventh album on Cameron House Records
Settle in. It’s going to be a good ride. Al Tuck, with his odd, straggly voice and sparse arrangements, has reached into what surely must be a massive chest of creations and put together an album that reveals the fascinating mind of a genius in our midst. Every song tells a story that somehow manages to be very straight-forward, yet full of cryptic images and puzzling observations. It is political, it’s spiritual and at times, it seems awfully personal.
The album is book-ended by several verses each of a song titled “There Is A God”, with just a few songs between them. Each part of “There Is A God” reveals a different spiritual aspect: criticism, discovery, temptation and acceptance. All four parts of the song are sung a cappella and recorded in a chapel in PEI. The final part, after ending with an angelic “Amen”, has 30 seconds of silence, giving you the chance to mull things over as the record comes to an end.
The first track after the first part of “There Is A God” is the trippy jazzed up song “There Is A War”. The war is on all things natural and good, and Tuck rambles through, in spoken word, all sorts of examples of good things and things we should stop. There are references to Buck 65, Charlie Mingus and Snowmageddon. It’s followed by “Five-O”, perhaps the most catchy song on the album with a bit of a surf rock feel. Even listening to it the first time, you’re singing along and listening intently to the story of a convicted criminal.
The title track is more than 10 minutes long, but again, it’s the story-telling that holds your attention. Whose wake is it? Why is he there? Guitar, fiddle and piano back up Tuck’s conversational singing as the song shuffles along
The mid-section of the album is comprised of more stories and more genres. There’s a Celtic piece about married life. “Let It Go (Over Yonder)” is a 50’s style rock tune that is possibly the most vague on the album, lyrically. “Paid In The Middle Of The Night” has a bluesy rock vibe and fun sing-along choruses.
The album closes with a couple of covers. “Walking By The River” is a languishing, swaying cover of a hit from 1941. Aptly leading into the final section of “There Is A God”, “Be Ready When He Comes” is an obscure B-side by one of the original Delta bluesmen, Skip James. Tuck adds his own accents with sax and a distinct metered time signature.
Although the first impressions of this album may be the messages and the variety of musical styles, the longevity of this album will be its story-telling. Every time you listen, you stumble upon a lyric that impresses. One of my personal favourites is “I can’t believe it’s just coincidence these incidents that coincide.” There are stories told in each song, and there’s a greater story arching over the breadth of the album, as well. Al Tuck is a fascinating man and we’re fortunate he is sharing these pieces of himself with us.