If you’re digging the emerging young roots players coming up in Toronto, then you’ve probably heard Devin Cuddy. Part of the Cameron House Records/Queen West scene that is experiencing a renaissance, Cuddy plays a lot around town with labelmates like Whitney Rose and Sam Cash. That last name might also ring a bell: he’s the son of Blue Rodeo lead singer Jim Cuddy.
I generally don’t like to invoke famous parents when reviewing their offspring, but the family resemblance was fairly obvious in Devin’s appearance at the Dakota Tavern on April 8. With a backing band that included local guitarist-in-demand Nichol Robertson, Cuddy cycled through his own originals and the country, swampy covers that inspire his writing. He’s got a great take on some of the classics, like those of Gram Parsons, but he doesn’t dwell too long in one style. That’s tough to do when you’re a piano player and leading the band: this repertoire historically isn’t as conducive to piano as it is to other instruments.
But after seeing NQ Arbuckle, I felt Cuddy could adopt some of the former’s approach: why not move a little closer to the ledge? Even if he doesn’t jump off, he might benefit from letting the songs skid away from him a bit, moving towards structural experimentation, or looser jams, before reining the band back to its usual tight arrangements. And this is where Cuddy Jr. takes after Dad: they are reluctant to take listeners on a wild, unexpected ride, preferring instead to keep a tight grip on a tried-and-true formula. Clearly it works: the place was packed, and people were digging it. Since Cuddy is in the early stages of his career, though, I’d love to see him go somewhere new and startle us.