Even before it hits the street, All In Time, the debut solo album from Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy has become one of 1998's most eagerly anticipated releases. The album gives fans a further glimpse inside a man who has become renowned as one-half of Canada's most popular songwriting team.
All In Time was recorded at Toronto's Chemical Sound studio with long-time Blue Rodeo engineer John Whynot helping Jim in the producer's seat. The album's eleven tracks were culled from close to twenty written specifically for the album.
"It was a very good writing year for me," recalls Cuddy. "I knew that I wanted to create songs with a specific sound in mind. I wanted my album to have fiddle driven songs. 'Second Son' is a good example of that."
Because of Blue Rodeo's demanding recording and touring schedules, Jim's album was recorded casually during breaks in the band's itinerary. As a result Jim had the luxury of distance to assess the progress his own record was making and how close it was to his initial vision of "a countrified album that rocks."
"After making Tremolo, I went back to my album and realized that I needed to balance the softer songs I'd already recorded. That's when harder edged songs like 'All In Time' were written."
Joining Jim in the studio was a core band that included Gavin Brown on drums, Colin Cripps on guitars and vocals and Blue Rodeo's Bazil Donovan on bass.
"I've had the luck of becoming friends with some remarkably talented people over the years," says Jim. "With this album I wanted to indulge myself by working with as many as I could, and that included Sally Davies who designed the artwork."
Since there was no particular time schedule pushing them along, a comfortable atmosphere in the studio allowed for special guests to drop in from time to time. Noted Maritimes violinist Melanie Doane lends a hand as do Michelle McAdorey (Crash Vegas) and Sarah Harmer (Weeping Tile). When Jim needed keyboards he needed to look no further then stage left, recruiting James Gray from Blue Rodeo. And when Wilco's Jay Bennett and Jeff Tweedy came to Toronto to promote their own album, Being There, they were more then happy to pop into the studio to offer guitar, banjo, piano and vocals where needed.
"Being There was definitely one of the inspirations for this album and Jeff and Jay ending up on the album was just one of those perfect coincidences. Who would have thought that these two guys, tired from a full day of promoting their own album, would allow themselves to get dragged out to a studio to record with a stranger?"
In the end, the song they helped out on, "I'll Make Believe It's You," (sung as a duet by Jim and Jeff) is one of All In Time's many highlights.
It was the mid-seventies when Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor first met each other in high school. After discovering a mutual love of music, they formed an "amphetamine pop band" called the HiF's. The pair moved to New York City in 1981 and tried to land a recording contract. Three years later they returned to Toronto without a deal but discovered a burgeoning club scene where acts such as k.d. lang, The Cowboy Junkies and Jeff Healey were honing their chops. Through a series of chance meetings and classified ads Jim and Greg formed Blue Rodeo.
In the thirteen years since forming Blue Rodeo, Jim and Greg have become widely respected as one of Canada's best songwriting teams. They have developed an unmistakable sound that has won them awards and critical acclaim. Their albums have been perennial chart toppers accumulating sales of more than two million records.
All In Time does not mark the end of Blue Rodeo. The album instead has given Jim the freedom to experiment with his creativity.
"I wanted to see if I could be the sole guide to a record. I developed into the songwriter that I am by being in this partnership. If anything, the solo experience has made just sitting down easier for Blue Rodeo."
In the end, All In Time sounds like what it is, a collection of great songs recorded by a bunch of friends having a good time. Jim Cuddy couldn't have picked a more appropriate way to step out on his own.