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- Posted on Oct 8th 2009 4:30PM by Drew Berner
Toronto alt-country quintet Cuff the Duke recently released their fourth full-length, 'Way Down Here,' which they recorded in the home of Canadian legend and Blue Rodeo co-founder Greg Keelor. The band first met Keelor when asked to be Blue Rodeo's opening act -- an honour considering the long-running roots-rock outfit claims 11 albums and eight Juno award wins over their quarter-century career, not to mention getting a star on Canada's Walk of Fame just last month.
"I've told Greg this, and he always busts my balls about it, but I was a closet Blue Rodeo fan," Cuff the Duke frontman Wayne Petti admits to Spinner. "I was in high school and it wasn't a 'cool' band to like. But I loved what [they] did, it just clicked with me."
After the tour wrapped, Blue Rodeo asked them to do another handful of shows in eastern Ontario. Keelor invited them to stay at his house nearby after each show and would hang out and play records with them. Eventually, he extended an invitation to record at his home and they took him up on it, walking out with a quartet of complete songs.
Initially, the recording was very informal -- Keelor just wanted them to try out his home studio -- but once the first session was finished it became clear there was more work to be done. The band returned for a handful of short stints and wound up with an entire record in just 11 days.
Petti and drummer Corey Wood credit Keelor's intuitive, no-nonsense approach for their productivity. "He wanted to go into it with a 'first thought-best thought' attitude -- we weren't going to overanalyze," Petti explains. "That's how [Keelor] rolls. He doesn't want to overanalyze s--- and he's all about the vibe. Sometimes he'd use takes [where] maybe there was a flub or a little imperfection, but it captured something."
After four records and numerous tours, Cuff the Duke also knows exactly what they want to bring to the table, so don't count on them experimenting with new sounds or genres. "The band itself isn't searching for an identity -- that's already done," Wood says. "The tea has steeped and now either you like the flavour or you don't."
Currently, Cuff the Duke are in the midst of their own sea-to-sea headlining tour, a journey Petti is pretty familiar with. "When I was 19, I took a train across Canada. [Bassist] Paul [Lowman] decided to go to Europe and I debated about going with him. But I thought, 'I really want to see my own country before I see other countries'," Petti reminisces. "Every tour I've been on since that frickin' train trip, I'm always somewhere in Northern Ontario or the Prairies or in the middle of the [Rocky] Mountains and, no matter how beautiful it is, I'll look out at the country and think, 'F---, I should have gone to Europe.' If only I had known that I would criss-cross this thing 11 times before I was 30!"