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Al Tuck: No, not Al Green

No, not Al Green

Al Tuck: Finds himself mysterious

Maritime madman Al Tuck will break your heart, one way or another

Who is the mythical Al Tuck?

"I am beginning to think there is about me something very mysterious. Everything happens to me… There is an inexplicable, malevolent force in my life that has driven me far beyond the limits of where I thought a person could even dream of being. I seem to be the ghost that wrote certain songs through other people, some even before I was born. I’ve written a few myself since then too. If I’d been born out of wedlock, I would have been Al Green." Meet Al Tuck, one of North America’s least-known exceptional songwriters according to All Music Guide.

Those in the know have been aware of this gem in the rough for 15 years, when Al first began to make ripples across the Canadian musical landscape. The rest of you have been missing out, as rarely does a natural talent like his cross our paths. Simply put, Al is one of those folks whose stars have never really aligned to bring him to more stereos and stages. He’s been dogged by bad luck and shitty jobs – Sam the Record Man, call centres – all the while pursuing the perfect verse, hook and harmony. A little bit country, a little bit rock’n'roll, a little bit pop, he is able to bridge these stylistic gaps flawlessly, creating a hybrid to call his own, his baritone targeting love lost and rarely found.

Tuck’s been central to the Halifax scene for two decades now, signing to Sloan’s Murderecords when they thought he was king, debuting two babies in 1994 credited to Al Tuck and No Action. Unbelievably, the follow-up dropped seven years later.

"I’m chronically poor," says Tuck. "I record on the cheap as a favour from someone, don’t mix things as soon as they are recorded, and then maybe have a hard time actually getting the tapes, because they are in another city… or have to wait a long time to luck into another place that can deal with the format they were recorded on, and then I begin another album on the side. My new album was recorded mostly live off the floor, three or four years ago!"

Critical acclaim has never been a stranger to Al, with scribes pegging him as the next great Canadian hope. "If I ever thought people saw me that way, I might have risen to the challenge. Only now do I sense a real demand for someone like me, and I definitely plan to meet it."

All these years later, what keeps him going?

"I thought it was weed, but I took a break from that and it kept right on happening. Singing is good for the cells, can cancel out some sins, so I don’t think it would be in my best interest to stop. Plus, I’m not that good at it yet and I want to be one of the best."

The new Al Tuck opus, My Blues Away, is a staggering collection of solo ditties, instrumentals, full band moments and tearjerkers. Only his story will break your heart more than his songs.

Al Tuck and guests
At Casa del Popolo (4873 St-Laurent), Dec. 30, at 9 p.m.

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  • by Mark St Pierre - December 25, 2005, 2:47 am

    Well, Al Tuck’s reputation really does precede him!…I’ve heard his name being bandied about by scores of people – hell, he’s even been mentionned in a song by Buck 65, one of his Maritime cohorts! While I’ve never fully appreciated what a hard-luck story that his career has thus far encompassed, I’m just grateful that I’ll finally have the good fortune ta see this nigh-mythical troubador in a setting as intimate as Casa!

  • by Robert Sander - December 27, 2005, 3:48 pm

    his story IS one of mythic proportions, this article is the proverbial tip of a very icy ‘berg. He wants to be considered among the great singers – he has already achieved this. His voice resonates beautifully in the lower registers when he resolves the climaxes of his verse. he has better pitch/sense of pitch and melody than your laymen songwriter. download his album “new high road of song” from zunior… should you choose to be armed with requests when he inevitabely baites the audience mid show. If you want to see what the muses are actually capable of when they inhabite someone in a true sense, go see al.

  • by Lisette Duval - December 31, 2005, 4:04 pm

    Al Tuck like Harry Manx is of this canadian artist to discover, absolutly!!! Both are very different but it’s wondefrul. Al Tuck is old-time sound didn’t find a home in popular culture, but he kept working and when his third CD New High Road of Song was released it was hailed by critics as his best, most cohesive to date. Since then Al Tuck, has been working hard to overcome life’s challenges like loosing everything he owned in a house fire by writing new music, recording and playing as many stages as he can across Canada.

  • by Dan Plimmer - August 17, 2006, 2:44 pm

    Ever since my brother bought Brave Last Days, back in ’94, Al has been my favourite artist. I don’t listen to him as much as other bands; rather, I save his tunes for those special occasions when it’s time to revisit an old cherished friend. Mr. Fix It from Brave Last Days is simply the best and funniest song ever written, hands down my favourite. I live in Taiwan, and whilst home on vacation in 2003 I was fortunate enough to see Al at a biker bar in Halifax the night before returning to Taiwan. While driving to Halifax to catch my flight I had an epiphany; I would see my long lost favourite ex-girlfriend. I did!! She was also at the show. Did I talk to her? Naw, Al was too good.

  • by Mike Dawson - October 14, 2006, 12:01 pm

    I saw Al Tuck open for Ramblin’ Jack Elliot at the Ukrainian Federation a few weeks ago. I have to say, in all honesty, I thought he was really bad. His songs were painfully long, he sang too close to the mike, his guitar playing was shoddy, and his lyrics were incomprehensible. Maybe Al was having a bad night, he did mention something about his wife leaving him or kicking him out or something, and something about a missed flight from somewhere. I wouldn’t say that Ramblin’ Jack played his best set that night, but he is in his seventies, and I think he was getting pissed off at all the flash photography and cellphone ringing that was going on in the audience.
    Al, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry to spoil your day, but if you want me to spend 30 bucks to come and watch your show then I think you should work on your set a bit. I’m sure that your lyrics are as good as all the above people say, but I couldn’t understand any of them. That song about searching for Gene what’s his name in Scotland sounded vaguely interesting, but you could maybe cut about 30 verses out of it, back up from the mike, and project yourself a bit better. There were some brief moments when your voice was straining to sound good, but they were drowned out by all the muttering and pausing that you did. You may be asking yourself “Well, does this guy think that he can do better?” Frankly, yes! If I was playing that excellent venue that you were lucky enough to get, I would have been a little less casual about it. Good luck, and don’t keep up the bad work.

  • by Robert Tuck - November 17, 2006, 6:18 pm

    When Alan started to talk (he had not yet started to sing) we discovered that he came with a kindly invisible companion called Mister Goach. Mr. Goach’s support put Al on an equal if not superior footing to that of his three older siblings. In later years the mythical Mr. Goach appeared in the flesh in the person of G (for Gordie) Roach, a native of Souris, Prince Edward Island, a Country and Western singer, who was Alan’s apartment mate when fire destroyed the building they lived in on Gottingen Street in Halifax. On the morning of the fire he was out visiting his girl friend and unable to get back into the apartment to save his gear. So he lost all his tapes and a portrait I had painted for him of his mother. It was cold that winter and so rather than stay huddled in the street over a grate he was rescued by a beautiful girl, daughter of a celebrated musician (and a singer herself although not the player of an instrument). This ran counter to the usual fairy-tale ending of such romances, in which the handsome prince rescues a damsel in distress. Also, they did not live happily ever after, for Al met Catherine Ruth, also the daughter of a musician, and a singer/ song writer of some distinction herself, who reportedly bewitched him. They were married and their beautiful daughter, Isabel, was born on Hallowe’en 2005. Now this lurching tale must end, for I am running out of space, and have probably spilled too many beans as well (although many more remain in the pot). I don’t know if this tale will have a happy ending. I am hopeful it will. For me that would mean them settling down and making beautiful music together (hopefully thereby bringing in enough money to live on) – and begetting more and more and more Isabels for their grandparents to dote on. That way their tale would have a fairy-tale ending and all the rest of us would have a shot at living happily ever after.

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