Cuff the Duke: Way Down Here

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Cuff the Duke
Way Down Here
(Noble Recording Co./Ernest Jennings Recording Co.)

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At first, listening to Cuff the Duke’s new album Way Down Here, I wasn’t sure that this album was anything special. A few listens later I kinda liked it. A couple more spins and I was in love. Now I can’t get these fantastic little tunes out of my head. Similar to my initial reactions to music by The National, my love and appreciation for this album wasn’t immediate. It took time. But now I’m hooked. This Toronto-based band’s overall sound ranges from steel guitar-tinged alt-country, to My Morning Jacket-like southern rock to Garden State-soundtrack indie folk.

Overall, it should be made clear that these are some very musically-talented guys who can really play their instruments well. Featured in many of the songs are various types of guitar solos—some are electrically-charged apocalyptic rock (“It’s All a Blur”), while others are hazy, ambling westerns (“Need You”). In the same way that Tom Petty has, for years, been able to craft simple, but highly inventive, hooky alt-country tunes, Cuff the Duke is also able to create the most basic riffs that make you wonder “why didn’t I think to write that?” Lead singer Wayne Petti’s voice is sweet and intimate, occasionally raspy, wide-ranging, and oh, when he sings “If you can’t walk, I will carry you back home,” it’s pretty sexy too.

My personal favorite is “Like the Morning,” a melancholy, slow-burning, 1-2-3 alt-country song with a beautifully ringing, steel and electric guitar instrumental at the end. While they occasionally sound a bit too derivative of certain classic rockers like the Byrds, the Beatles, and Tom Petty there is still a definite modernity to the songs that make them fresh and interesting. Ultimately though, this is a very high-quality album, so take a listen or two or ten, and see what I mean.

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