Jim Cuddy – Constellation (Warner)
This is Jim Cuddy’s fourth solo album. His last one, 2011’s Skyscraper Soul, was the best collection of songs Cuddy had penned in a long time. The same is true this time out. What’s his other band called again? Iin terms of new work, Cuddy appears to be keeping his best cards closest to his chest.
Cuddy built his rep on ballads. There are few who do them better. So yes, most Cuddy ballads sound the same, but when they sound like the title track here, or “You Be the Leaver,” it’s impossible to argue with the guy’s skill set: not even Elton John has been writing songs that could stand beside those two for three decades straight, songs that also acknowledge mature themes and the wisdom of age, rather than just pumping out pop platitudes. Cuddy has death on his mind: he lost a close friend while writing this record, and was also a go-to interview subject for Canadian media when his peer Gord Downie embarked on an 18-month swan song.
Beyond the ballads, the uptempo tracks are solid as well: “Beauty and Rage” and “Hands on the Glass” raise the pulse, while Oh Susanna, Sheepdogs guitarist Jim Bowskill and violinist Anne Lindsay give the old-school country song “Cold Cold Wind” some real blood.
Jim Cuddy is now 62 years old. His longtime songwriting partner, Greg Keelor, suffers from tinnitus and muses publicly about packing it in. Cuddy may be “walking down the same old streets / shuffling memories at my feet”—but he may also be hitting a late-career stride. (Feb. 2)
Stream: “Constellations,” “You Be the Leaver,” “Cold Cold Wind”