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.