Al Tuck makes his mark

His songs have earned the praise of high profile musicians like Feist, yet Halifax folk-rocker Al Tuck has largely hovered under the radar for the bulk of his career. When North America’s eyes and ears were transfixed on the Halifax music scene in the early ’90s with the rise of bands like Sloan, Thrush Hermit and others, Tuck was the unsung folk hero of the bunch. While he has consistently been a critical favourite, he has never truly reaped the rewards that many of his peers have.

With the release of his excellent new record Under The Shadow, however, Al Tuck’s time in the spotlight might have finally arrived. The album holds true to his musical vision, with his skilled guitar playing and unrivalled voice gently guiding his songs forward.

Al Tuck performs at Plan B Lounge, located at 212 St. George Street on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

Asked what it was like to be in the thick of the Halifax music scene during a time that labels were snapping up east coast bands left and right, Tuck insists that he and his colleagues from various bands in Halifax found the world’s attention to be somewhat amusing. Even though his music lacked the distortion and raw “alternative” edge of many other bands from the area, he is ultimately happy to have been a part of the scene at such a pivotal point in history.

“I hadn’t discovered the distortion pedal in the way that others did back then,” Tuck begins. “I felt a little out of place in respect to what was going on around me but really, I was just happy to have been included.”

Though he assembled a collection of some of his favourite songs for last year’s All Time Favorites, Under The Shadow comes approximately two and a half years after Tuck’s last studio effort, Food For The Moon. Despite the somewhat rapid release of product from him over the past few years, Tuck has experienced a few dry spells between new releases since the turn of the century. We should clarify though that it is not lack of material or motivation holding him back, the lack of product could be attributed to mostly budgetary reasons.

“The lulls are usually a matter of me scraping things together and finding the funds to get a proper release done. Sometimes if you are on your own, it can be a struggle to get things done to your satisfaction in an orderly manner,” Tuck says.

“I’ve already got songs on the shelf to put towards another album though I find that writing new material seems to be more of a gradual process than it used to be. Having enough songs and ideas for records has never really been the issue for me. I have often thought that maybe I should treat my material a little more casually and make more recordings available for those who might be interested in them.”

To Tuck’s credit, there does not appear to be any lack of interest in his songs. After plans to release Under The Shadow fell through with another label, Tuck’s old friend, east coast rocker Joel Plaskett offered to release the record via his label New Scotland Records. Despite the arrangement coming together at the eleventh hour, Tuck is quite content to have Plaskett in his corner. Not only did Plaskett come to the rescue to ensure that the record saw the light of day, Tuck shares that the musician ended up lending his production talent to the record as well.

“There was one track on the record that had remained unfinished but Joel came in and found the time to produce a session to get that last song completed. It wasn’t long after that that New Scotland agreed to release the record, which I was and continue to be very grateful for,” he says.

And while earning the respect and praise of some high profile colleagues might not necessarily help pay the bills, Tuck admits that he is humbled to have received accolades from indie superstar Feist, former Broken Social Scene member Jason Collett and more. While he has not sought their stamp of approval, he says that he takes great pride in knowing that his songs resonate with others.

“I don’t write songs strictly for other songwriters to enjoy. I simply want to write songs that are direct enough that people can get them the first time they hear them. I am not one to try to be clever with my songs,” Tuck laughs. “It is hugely gratifying to get the feeling that my work has had an impact on others though. It is something that is very special for sure.”

Article published in November 4, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript