Today was the big day. Yes, today was the day I finally picked up my first real “big boy” purchase in the way of a brand spanking new Honda CRV so I’m wrapped tighter than an airport sandwich; it’s exciting and terrifying all in one single tightly rolled, compact fuel-efficient anxiety attack. Thankfully, today is recovery day after a good seven day stretch of intense workouts so I don’t have anything particularly important to get done aside from passing some time on the mat while the child is at her swimming lessons, so something enjoyable and perhaps a little downbeat would be appropriate; something like Cuff the Duke‘s ‘Life Stories for Minimum Wage‘ album, which, consequently, could be my life’s epitaph.
This the debut album released in 2002 and recorded at Umbrella Sound and at The House of Miracles in Toronto; it was later re-released in 2007 on Outside Music. ‘Life Stories for Minimum Wage‘ is full of songs about frustration, loneliness, heartbreak and the female curve ball. Likewise, its jammed packed with great arrangements and instrumentation’s (organs, moog, harmonica), with each track remaining fluent in style as the sounds tell a story to its listeners. From the gorgeous opening ‘Blackheart‘ through the driving ‘Hey Baby‘ and on through the rootsy ‘The Difference Between Us’, Cuff the Duke share Blue Rodeo’s eclectic love of genre-hopping and (bizarrely enough) Americana and prog rock influences. Is it alt-country or is it alt-rock? Or is it some entirely new hybrid altogether?
My favorites however are the two instrumentals ‘The Ballad of a Lonely Construction Worker‘, and ‘Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump‘ which hint at the more experimental work they would do with Paul Aucoin on successive albums. Lastly, the the album ends with one of the catchiest whistling songs this side of Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Patience‘ with ‘The Trouble and the Truth‘ which was enough to have me wrap the workout up and head for the showers. And, now, for the remainder of my day, I’m going to slink down into my comfy chair in front of the boob tube and let it all simply melt away.