Archive for May, 2012



Jim Cuddy is one of the most credible people I know in the music industry.
Cuddy has always struck me as a person and musician who has tons of integrity.
Many people in Canada also agree that Jim Cuddy is one of the finest singer-songwriters of his generation. 
He has a proven track record with the Canadian institution Blue Rodeo and on his own.
His excellent new album Skyscraper Soul a salute to his hometown of Toronto contains some of his best solo work.
And by the way, Canada has produced some of the best songwriters of all time.
Robbie Robertson, Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Keelor and Cuddy. The list is amazing.
I have known Cuddy since Blue Rodeo first touched down at Northern College in Timmins on the Diamond Mine tour.
I had bought the band’s first album Outskirts and it was clear Cuddy and his songwriting partner Greg Keelor and the magical chops of the band were special 
Jim and his killer band are set to perform at the McIntyre Arena on Thursday May 31 .
A few days back I had the chance to talk to Jim about his life and career.
Emms- Growing up artists and their songs were thought of as important. It seemed a big part of our world. Neil Young, The Beatles, Jackson Browne and others. How did those early influences shape your career?
Cuddy-It gave me a philosophy that I maintain today. I still find it odd that young artists don’t believe in the fact that an ethic should come from music and artists. I grew up thinking music was a counter-culture philosophy. It gave me guidance on how I should live my life.
Emms-Your very prolific. You write songs for solo albums, you write songs for Blue Rodeo, you tour with your band, you tour with BR. Is there a pressure that comes with all that songwriting?
Cuddy-John, writing songs makes me feel like a good person. It makes me feel this is what I should be doing. Obviously there are breaks needed, but I feel good to get back to it, almost a relief. Sure, the tank is a bit empty when you have just done a record and you tour but I’m happy writing new material with Blue Rodeo.
Emms-Oh, so you guys will record a new album this year?
Cuddy-Actually yes, it’s our 25th annniversery year and we are busy with a package that reflects that.
It’s an 8 cd Box Set, unreleased demos from Casino, very Beatlesque stuff John, also new mixes for our debut album Outskirts, and then I have to write some stuff for a new BR album for the fall which should out in 2013.
Emms-Whew that sounds like lots of work.
Cuddy-Well John, it’s not as arduous as would think, I’m only writing half as much for Blue Rodeo, maybe 8 songs or so, six which might get used, while Greg will come up with the rest. That’s why I like writing solo albums, it gives me a complete use for my songs to complete a whole record.
Emms-With all of this writing and recording are you a perfectionist when it comes to what you want.
Cuddy-No, I don’t labour over mixes, I have standards, but I have plenty of input from members of The Jim Cuddy Band. Bassist Bazil Donavan, my guitarist/ producer Colin Cripps.
My solo band has been with me 15 years.
Even in Blue Rodeo drummer Glen Milchem and all the guys have a lot of input. The thing is John, it’s very obvious with seasoned musicians when something is working or not.
Emms-Paul MCcartney, Elton John and others talk about the craft of songwriting. Your a Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee (congrats Jim) maybe you could explain it for younger songwriters just starting out.
Cuddy-The craft of songwriting is part instinct, and part learned. You also must have an instinct of what your voice can do for the song. You have to listen to other artists music and how they create it. I also  believe the melody of any song should be strong.
Emms-Your new cd Skyscraper Soul for me seems to be your most North American release. The title track and a few others written about Toronto could be about any city Jim?
Cuddy-That’s perceptive of you John and thank you. I think I got backed into a corner defending Toronto. But Toronto, Montreal, New York all have been influences for me. But when I write these songs I’m not not necessarily placing myself in them, but I am part of that life.
 I have walked in London England thought about the greyness, the city thriving. The difficulty and dignity it takes to live on top of each other is important to me as a songwriter. Then again as you know Greg and myself have written a ton songs about our country..
Emms-Yourself and Blue Rodeo always maintain and even grow your fanbase. People not only enjoy your past efforts but look forward to the new albums. It’s a fantastic connection you have.
Cuddy-Well, you know this yourself, sometimes you don’t understand how it’s maintained. But we do a few things. We engage ourselves and our fans. And above all we get out and play. That’s our Canadian road ethic. Don’t wait for the fans to come to you, get out and play for them.
Also I think Blue Rodeo’s music has been there for our fans at critical times in their lives. Their first job, their marriage, their first house, their first baby. We help people connect to many times in their life. Shows they could not go to because their kids were too young. Now those children go to the shows with their parents.
Emms-Jim, your clearly excited about writing new songs and playing for people. It astounds me.
Cuddy-Thanks John. You know I love it. I mean I really do. You know, I so understand my life and my career. I know how to preserve my energy. As musicians we try to keep our standards high. We look at ourselves as working musicians.I like the fact, I never feel I’m bored.
Emms-As always a pleasure Jim, can’t wait to see the show
Cuddy-Thanks John, see you next Thursday
JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist. Writes for The Timmins Daily Press/Post Media
Visit John and his blues/roots band at










Joe Bonamassa’s gorgeous guitar work on Live At The Beacon Theatre New York has the ability to make you feel as much emotion as a great vocalist.

That folks, is rare.

Jeff Beck, Gary Moore, Stevie Ray Vaughan and a short list of others have that same pipeline to the heart of their playing.

And Bonamassa’s band of  drummer Tal Bergman, “Mr Groove” bassist Carmine Rojas and keyboard man Rick Melick are “wired” into Joe’s phrasing vocally and from his guitar.

Honestly, it’s hard to believe this is only a four piece band. Their sound is killer without sacrificing depth.

The first 3 tracks, Slow Train, Cradle Rock, and When the Fire Hits The Sea launch the fireworks. However like all great players JB and his band pull subtle and enticing dyanmics out of Gary Moore’s Midnight Blues and JB’s Dust Bowl.

One of the huge highlights of this show are the two songs performed with vocalist Beth Hart.

Look we have a lot of female vocalists these days.  Too many in fact.

 Beth Hart is simply a tour de force.

Hart can be powerful, sexy, and believe me when she sings the track I’ll Take Care of You few can touch her on this planet.

That combined with the track Sinner’s Prayer bring JB’s guitar solos and the band to top of the mountain in a superb display of musicianship.

John Hiatt nails his own Down Around My Place and Paul Rodgers delivers a gutsy take of Fire and Water.

But JB and his band at almost every turn are compelling and true to the nature of their music.

These guys are feeling it. And at this point it’s important to note Bonamassa’s vocal work is getting better by leaps and bounds.

My wife hates when I put on “guitar shows’ for review. But from the start she seems to just love the tone of Joe’s guitar work. And yes that readers is probably a good sign for Joe’s new opus that drops next week!   

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, an online worldwide radio host  and has fun with his own blues band














Here is the best single songs I’m digging via my heart and head!

John Mayer-Speak For Me-Flawless songcraft via a gorgeous acoustic folk vibe 

A melody that sparkles in a 70’s Gordon Lightfoot vein. Wow! From John’s Born And Raised album due out May 22/2012.

Counting Crows-Untilted (Love Song) Think superb alt country in a Jayhawks way and you will have an idea for this beauty. Gorgeously sung by Adam Duritz. Killer guitar work by what sounds like Dan Vickrey. From the new cd Underwater Sunshine.

Alan Doyle-I’ve Seen A Little-Doyle explodes out of the box with this muscular rocker. If your not singing the chorus by the second time through, your tone deaf. Doyle’s album Boy On Bridge may be the surprise hit of the summer. 













Garbage-Your Kind of People (title track) The best vocal mix I have heard this year. Honestly Shirley Manson is singing her ass off.  Hypnotic and mesmerizing. Killer.

The Beach Boys-That’s Why God Made The Radio. Wow, I’m carrying this song into my summer of 2012.

Tantalizing vocal harmonies still intact, gorgeous bridge and verse chords carry this track deep into your head.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, musician  you  can check out John’s worldwide radio show here





I love musicians and what we do

You have to have PASSION for music.

The song choices on this radio show I believe are the key to it’s success.

I personally select every song and it’s placement.

Yep, just like the late 60’s FM DJ’S did.

This radio show has feel and dynamics.

Just like a great rock n’ roll band.

I have a great engineer Doug Young. Old school cat who knows his stuff 

MUSIC  is the unifying thread that ties EVERYONE ON THE PLANET together.

I’m happy to say this show is listened to in JAPAN, INDIA, THE UK, US, CANADA..VIRTUALLY ALL OVER THE WORLD

This show grows every month



BONAMASSA, CELLESTE, CUDDY, RIVAL SONS, SPRINGSTEEN,top “mix tape”..single reviews by john emms



As a journalist and musician I listen a lot of new music.

It also gives you a gauge when your writing your own new material.

I still have the habit of making best of tracks for my vehicle or Gym ipod 

Never learned from the mix  cassette tape days I guess.

You can download all of these tracks.  Here is a small sample of what is in rotation in my vehicle and what I play on my radio show.

 Joe Bonamassa-Driving Towards The Daylight-Title track of his new album brings tons of tension built around a great lyric and even better vocal by Bonamassa. Short gtr solo. Atmospheric mix!

Celleste-(top photo) Join The Infestation. May sound like a funny sounding title until you hear Celleste and producer Eric Dick lock into the bass guitar/drum whomp.  Celleste wails a Katy Perry good time vibe over a vintage beat the Black Keys would be proud of.

Jim Cuddy-Regular Days-From the Skyscraper Soul cd. Cuddy always has a way of making records that sound good the first time through, but killer on repeated listens. Gorgeous lead and harmony vocals, tight focused chord progression. Great  relationship number.

See my full review of Jim’s cd in the archive section 

Norah Jones-She’s 22-Wow, you won’t believe the trippy turn in the lyric” Does she make you happy” and how Jones has you hanging on every word. The minimal backing is spooky and real. From her latest cd Little Broken Hearts.

Bruce Springsteen-Shackled and Drawn-Easily one the most organic songs by any artist this year. Great story in the lyric, gospel backing.  How can you top yourself as The Boss. This is one way for sure.

Peter Karp/Sue Foley-Beyond The Crossroads-Wow, this is an R & B blues based rocker which  recalls the pure joy of stuff that Solomon Burke would have put out. Stunning.

Rival Sons-Only One-From the Pressure & Time cd. Honestly this reminds me of a modern day Bad Company track. The rhodes piano and southern fried guitar fills only add fuel to one of the best vocals I have heard in recent memory

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, radio host and musician. You can check out John’s latest work on Apple i Tunes with The Shaftmen in addition to his solo recordings. Visit John here

May 2012