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After almost ten years as a band and four albums to its credit, Cuff the Duke has made ... a concept record. The Toronto roots rockers wouldn't call it that (there are no suites about dragons here), but there it is, 10 tracks on a theme that flow like a film, like a good book, one filled with emotional highs and lows, plot twists, and universal truths. Morning Comes is a story about change, about confronting loss, about - as one track calls it -- "Standing on the Edge" and having the courage to look across to an unknown future on the other side.
"I think it's about reaching that point in your life when you're not exactly young anymore but you're certainly not old," says vocalist Wayne Petti. "Over the last couple of years I've had friends and family who passed away and you realize that there is a lot of this happening now, losing people. I felt I needed to address this emotion that happens to everybody, ...when you get off track and you need to rebound from it."
Cuff the Duke has approached these heavy themes not with mopiness or despair but with strength, like men raised on John Wayne and Bruce Springsteen. (Which they were.) Nor is Morning Comes a collection of sad songs. Rather, some of the most infectious pop and upbeat rock the band has crafted yet. As with their 2009 record Way Down Here, they've enlisted as producer Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo, recording in his farmhouse studio in a manner than brings immediacy and authenticity to the recordings.
"Blue Rodeo was a big influence on me," explains Wayne. "Some of the first songs I ever sang out loud, when I realized I could sing songs, were "Hasn't Hit Me Yet" and "Bad Timing. Greg really understands what Cuff the Duke is doing as a band and we really click."
Morning Comes also continues the band's habit of sequencing tracks as A and B-sides, in the tradition of vinyl records. It will in fact be pressed on vinyl and released as a four-sided double album, with one side featuring an etching of the cover art and one side containing just one track, the epic "Bound to Your Own Vices," a song Wayne calls the album's narrative and sonic turning point. "It really sums up the record: it's got poppy bits, rootsy bits, it's slow and sad and rocking and upbeat, all in 8 minutes."
And if the record leaves you on a slight down-beat with the reflective closing track "Letting Go," there is also much brightness on the horizon, as the band is already recording a companion sequel [title TBA] to explore life after loss. "Where 'Letting Go' leaves off, with a person who has moved on, the next record is what comes after that. It should be lyrically more upbeat, still questioning things, but more optimistic rather than sad and final. "I always try to incorporate a sense of hope."