Devin Cuddy: A Musical Maverick with Heart and Soul
When it comes to Canadian music, few artists can claim a legacy as rich and diverse as Devin Cuddy. A gifted musician, songwriter, and performer, Devin Cuddy is a shining star in his own right. His first album, Volume One, a blend of his love for New Orleans blues and outlaw country, was released in 2012 and was nominated for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year (group) at the 2014 Juno Awards. He followed this success with 2014’s Kitchen Knife and a third ‘live’ album titled Live at the Glenn Gould Studio, released in 2017.
With the November 3rd release of his new album, Dear Jane, Devin Cuddy shows he is not just an artist but a musical trailblazer who continues to break new ground while honouring the traditions of the past. His commitment to heartfelt, genre-blurring music will more than please his devoted fan base and gain him many more.
For those who don’t know, Devin Cuddy is the son of renowned musician Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo fame. As a kid, his parents insisted he take lessons and learn the piano (he smiles when he says this — you know — the I had to do homework kind of smile). He studied classical piano from an early age, which laid the foundation for his virtuosity on the keys. This training gave him the tools to break the boundaries of genres and create his own distinctive sound. It didn’t hurt that his exposure to a wide range of musical styles, from rock to country to New Orleans jazz — a jazz album collection he discovered in his home when he was a teen, played a role in his musical pathway.
Today, Devin Cuddy is a multi-talented musician who plays several instruments with aplomb, including the piano and keyboard. His ‘sound’ seamlessly blends elements of country, folk, blues, and rock that together create a genre-defying but joyful musical experience. Cuddy’s raspy yet soulful voice complements the tunes he writes, which are heartfelt and poignant.
Cuddy’s Dear Jane album reflects a wide array of influences, from Ray Charles, Van Morrison, Louis Armstrong, and Dr. John. Where it gets interesting is that while you can see the influence of these icons on his music in every song — it’s the other part of his musical recipe that defines his unique style.
Dear Jane is a nine-song gem of folk and Americana that seamlessly adds Cuddy’s New Orleans sound and spirit into the mix. There’s a simplicity and sincerity in his music that takes us back to the golden era when storytelling was the heart of songwriting. The inspiration for this album came from a realization Cuddy experienced during the Covid pandemic about the importance of human interaction. He says the lack of human interaction and isolation caused by Covid impacted his creativity to the point where he just wasn’t motivated to produce or write music. It was a period where he found himself unable to write or find inspiration in everyday life. The songs on Dear Jane pay homage to the joy and blessings Cuddy feels when he is performing, travelling and playing live music for people for a living. The album is an ode to human interaction and the importance of connecting with people. Cuddy’s knack for painting vivid pictures with his words and sharing his emotions through the angst in his voice when performing comes out on songs like “Hold Tight, and “She Loved Me.”
Cuddy has a unique way of blending wit and heartache, often within the same song, and it can be heard in his lyrical craftsmanship. The title song “Dear Jane” and “Unemployabill” reminded me of the late great John Prine’s storytelling prowess, capturing life’s difficulties with humour and empathy. A soulful folk spirit permeates Dear Jane as Cuddy manages to effortlessly balance deep reflection with moments of lightheartedness.
In short, Dear Jane is one of the year’s best albums. The songs have a big sound, and Cuddy’s performances are steeped in melodic creativity, marked by his own distinctive voice and artistic vision. The rich songwriting, heartfelt melodies, and a touch of humour make it a musical romp that bridges generations and genres. Dear Jane is a testament to Cuddy’s artistry and his ability to capture the essence of folk and Americana songwriting while adding his own distinct New Orleans-style riffs that have come to define him.
Devin Cuddy’s performances are known for their energy, emotion, and deep connection with the audience. His fans in Ottawa are in for a treat as he will be gracing the Red Bird stage for a sold-out show on November 10th and 11th, 2023, as part of his tour promoting Dear Jane.