Well seasoned. Well connected. Well established.
If there’s a common element between Cuff the Duke and Jenn Grant—other than their booking agent—it’s in each act’s refinement and quest to keep breaking new ground.
The indie rock band and solo artist have each released new records and will share the stage for most of a cross-Canada tour, Grant stepping out only for the portion where she has already toured with Kathleen Edwards.
Grant is married to Daniel Ledwell, of the Halifax band In-Flight Safety, who produced her new album The Beautiful Wild, and credits her time writing with hip hop artist Buck 65 for much of this album’s free-flowing collection of songs.
“I felt really excited about the way I would write with him. I would just tune my guitar down, find a sweet spot and go,” she said. “I felt like it was weird that I was writing that fast but I’ve decided to embrace that.”
The Beautiful Wild is what Grant describes as a far more lush production than her last album, Honeymoon Punch. The music is laced with sitar, vocals from the Halifax Boys’ Honour Choir and even the golden lick of Aaron Goldstein’s Pedal steel guitar—a contribution she won shmoozing backstage at the Junos.
Cuff the Duke’s new album Union, by contrast, centres around one very important song for lead singer/guitar player and writing machine Wayne Petti.
Writing “Stay the Night” before his wedding, Petti says this song is the most honest, personal piece he has penned in his life and that this album really presents a collection of songs well-mulled and chewed and thought-through before release.
Produced by Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor, this is the group’s sixth full-length venture and the second on the Paper Bag Records label, which focuses on the Toronto indie rock landscape signing Broken Social Scene, Austra and Tokyo Police Club.
Like Grant, who redid the schedule for her studio time in order to ruminate on her new material, Cuff the Duke’s new release represents years of collaboration and reworked verse in what’s dubbed the second part of a two-part album project that started with Morning Comes, released late last year.
This is the low-key sonic echo to their usual rock sound, fine-tuned through years of jamming in warehouse rehearsal space like the North Toronto studios where Petti gave this interview. Work ethic is something Petti says he’s picking up from Blue Rodeo; he also plays with the band on the side.
“I don’t know if they’re given enough credit for that,” he said. “They work hard and they tour a lot.”
While touring with the group one year, he says they easily played over 200 shows, many just simple festivals and community concerts they’ve committed to working for years.
Cuff the Duke and Jenn Grant play Wednesday, Oct. 17 from 8-11 p.m. at Sapphire, 238 Leon Ave. Tickets are $25 at the door, $20 in advance and available through Leo’s Video on Pandosy Ave., 2680 Pandosy St., Milkcrate Records, 1551 Ellis St., Mosaic Books on Bernard Ave., 411 Bernard Ave. or online.