Al Tuck's career seems to be cursed and blessed in roughly equal portions. The P.E.I.-born, Halifax-based singer/songwriter possesses an astounding talent for writing beautiful, witty and incisive songs, as well as the expressive voice and guitar skills necessary to play them with full emotional impact. But he's missing the gene that allows other songwriters to record and promote their own work -- and it certainly didn't help that a house fire last year destroyed all his belongings except for his guitar and the clothes on his back.
In typical Tuck style, he looks at that misfortune with bemused optimism.
"I get a kick out of it," he says. "You're in a strange position -- kind of stripped and reborn, with just your clothes on."
Sadly, many rare tapes and albums were lost, including one of the few recordings of his early band, Bluegrass Lawnmower. "Yeah, I lost tapes," he says. "It's kind of a relief, though, because I don't know who would want to deal with them anyway. But the Bluegrass Lawnmower stuff was a great recording that hadn't been heard. I did have some of it on a CD that I left at the Tranzac Lounge one night ... maybe someone found it. But my album collection lives inside of me now in a way that it didn't before. If I need to hear a certain lick or vocal technique, I have to produce it myself."
Unfortunately, though, he rarely gets around to doing that. "I have such a backlog of unrecorded songs that I can do anything I want with, and I get very grand-minded about it, but then I don't actually do any of it," he admits with a laugh. "I've almost reverted to a pre-20th century mindset of just performing and not recording."
Almost is the word, luckily, as we could, God willing, be on the verge of a Tuck mini-recording boom. His brilliant, critically acclaimed first album, Arhoolie, is now out on CD for the first time, and he's got a handful of songs he recorded last year at Blue Rodeo's studio and a whole other album ready to go.
"It'll be a horse race," he says. "One is more love songs, and the other is not love songs ... political, maybe, or historical -- anything that doesn't fall into the you-me category."
Tuck rashly predicts that by spring or summer he'll have at least one of them out, and maybe even launch a tour. In the meantime, he's in town to do a couple of shows -- including one tonight at C'est What with former Local Rabbit Pete Elkas, and another Jan. 23 at Cafe May. Take the opportunity to hear his great songs while you can, and if you happened to find a CD at the Tranzac Club, please don't record over it!