Under Your Shadow
New Scotland Records.
SCQ Rating: 72%
As a songwriter, Al Tuck revolves his own peculiar planet. He has venerable ties throughout Atlantic Canada’s music community and yet his music has yet to incorporate another’s sound or muse. Fittingly Under Your Shadow presents Tuck as a pillar unto himself, resting heavily upon rootsy arrangements and his understated delivery even amid a loose ensemble of contributing musicians.
What isolates Tuck’s seventh studio recording proves to be its complimentary, off-the-cuff feel; that despite a lot of obvious forethought put into Under Your Shadow’s formation, it toes the line of creativity not yet settled in place. His insistence on overcast acoustic tones and light discord are saved by the latent energy in arrangements that lift this typical singer-songwriter fare from the doldrums. From the small-town couplet that drives through full-band swagger (‘Ducktown’) and sleepy organ passages (‘Yawnsville’) to the rich folk of ‘Slapping the Make On You’, Tuck keeps listeners alert by trading sly shades of comedy and earnestness.
Despite his strong sense of self, Tuck’s talents require careful, repeated listens before fully springing forth and, even then, Under Your Shadow has its road-bumps. ‘Hello, Prince Edward Island’, a live track dropped halfway through the album of all places, doesn’t exactly gel with the patient folk-strewn atmosphere built up until then, but it bears the charm of a songwriter who plays perpetually on the cusp.