Adam Puddington released Can’t Sleep This One Off in 2002. With well-worn observations and a gruff delivery, the album showed the signs of a truly promising songwriter coming into his own. Unfortunately, the music never managed to find the audience it deserved. Though many obstacles make it hard to succeed in the fickle music industry, chief among them for this album would have to be that the only retail outlet selling it was a small gas station in Almonte, Ontario.
Puddington began playing music in a series of bands throughout high school, drawing on a background rooted in his parents’ CCR, Neil Young and Willie Nelson albums. “Originally, I just wanted to play music with other people and to learn how to do that well,” he says. “As I improved as a musician, I became more concerned with songwriting as my primary goal.”
Developing these skills over the next few years, he began to infuse his music with the influences of self-discovered favourites such as Lucinda Williams, Paul Westerberg and Ron Sexsmith. While his hometown of Almonte nurtured this artistic progression, it wasn’t until he travelled to the east coast that his music truly found a home.
“I met Adam at a CKDU fundraiser we both played in 2000,” says Serge Samson of Hay Sale records, the Halifax label releasing Puddington’s latest, For the Meantime, November 10 at Stage Nine. “I was playing with The Guthries at the time, and upon hearing him, we all thought he was incredibly talented.”
Puddington, who had moved to Halifax to attend Dalhousie University, couldn’t have asked for a more like-minded group of musicians to fall in with than The Guthries. Instantly finding a kinship with each other’s music, they soon arranged a time to work together.
“We invited him over to play some tunes with us, and ended up recording a demo with him,” says Samson, “and then the full-length Can’t Sleep This One Off.”
While his debut album’s distribution may have left something to be desired, the musicianship didn’t. So when Puddington decided to start work on his sophomore effort, he enlisted many of the same players.
“We did the record at Common Ground studios in Halifax with Andrew Watt and Chris Mitchell,” he says. “We did most of it live off the floor in one day, and then did some overdubs in another couple of days. It was a great way to catch the true spirit of the songs.”
Backed by a core band of Samson and brothers Brian and Dale Murray, Puddington revisited a similar vibe (and songs) from his debut, with a more focused, professional and immediate sound.
Puddington’s strong songwriting is at the heart of the resulting disc’s 11 songs. His lyrics work equally to progress plots and slide into melodious hooks with an admirable ease. While there is a wisdom in his words that seems to owe a debt to the world-weary ponderings of Townes Van Zandt, his music is more in tune with Jay Farrar’s late Uncle Tupelo and early Son Volt output. Combining excitement and honesty, his songs hold a coveted familiarity that sits at the core of the best of country music.
Being backed live by the same line-up that lent their support on the album, Puddington is now working out plans to tour in support of the album. “My plans for the future are mainly focused around trying to make somewhat of a living off of my music,” he says. “We’re planning to go across Canada in the spring and hope to hit the UK next fall.”
It’s never easy to take on the harsh realities of touring, but Puddington has a simple philosophy to face them with. “I think people just like good music. As long as you play good music for people, you’ll generally get a good reception.”
With that philosophy, a stellar line-up of musicians by his side and an accomplished album to push, he’s now prepared to make sure his music finds an audience beyond the petrol consumers of Almonte, Ontario.
Adam Puddington Cd release w/Ruth and Gabe Minnikin, November 10 at Stage Nine, Blowers at Grafton, 8pm, $5, 444-7801.