Our first encounter with Sam Polley took place last year at The Sawdust City Music and Arts festival, in which he formed part of the Jim Cuddy Family band during the Saturday night headline event. With his share of lead performances during that evening, Sam wowed us with his on-stage persona and natural musical talent, leaving us with a fantastic first impression and a strong desire to catch up with him again sometime soon.
I really hate to have to state the obvious, but cannot assume that every reader knows Polley is the youngest son of Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy. And while it is incredibly apparent that Polley has inherited this musical pedigree, he has very successfully carved out his own musical identity rather than simply follow in his father’s footsteps. Naturally he shares some traits with Jim, the occasional nuances flashed from time to time during his performance, but Sam sets himself apart with his love for a generation of music that pre-dates Blue Rodeo, and mixes both romanticism and rebellion from across a very wide musical spectrum too. And unlike his brother Devin, whose stage persona is a little more introverted, there is something about Sam that demands your attention; that casual swagger and natural confidence in himself and his abilities. Both brothers share the same genes and talents; they just deliver it in very different ways (and are a joy to watch during those Jim Cuddy Family Band performances together).
Fast forward to this past weekend, and the opportunity to see Sam once more would finally present itself to us. With the announcement of a live event taking place at the Moonshine Café in Oakville, ON, Team GDW battled the wintry conditions and drove north for this show. With a full band in tow, Sam Polley & The Old Tomorrows (Cameron House regulars: Fraser Melvin on lead guitar, Tally Ferraro on bass and Gianni Ferraro on drums) ventured out of the big city and down the QEW to this intimate venue on Kerr St. Promoting their brand new “EP in a Day” album (“available on Spotify and Apple Music”), the band would perform all five new tunes from this release during their 22 song set-list. Indeed, with both broad and diverse musical influences, Polley and co worked other originals and some well known covers from many genres into their repertoire.
Opting to start the show with a quick tempo and upbeat vibe, the band launched into a cover of the Elvis Presley classic, “Wearing that loved on look,” gaining the full attention of the room from the very start. A slight faux pas would follow, however, when Sam introduced his next cover track as an old 50s or 60s tune that most in the room would know. A few ‘humorous’ groans from the older members of the audience had poor Sam quickly scambling to convince folks that he did not mean that they were old, per se, but that the song is a well-known classic. Naturally, all was quickly forgiven as everybody enjoyed his version of “Love Potion Number 9.”
The brand new material from “EP in a Day” were successfully mixed into the set all evening, with “Wish You Well” and “Rude Girl” offered during his first set, and “Surrender,” “You’re Gonna Be Mine” and “Temporary Love” performed down the stretch. Ever hopeful that Sam would once again delight us with some of his ‘Sawdust City’ material, we felt immense satisfaction when experiencing repeats of “Crazed Country Rebel,” “Sixteen Tons,” and his amazing take on Great Big Sea’s “The Night Pat Murphy Died.” Covering the classic Coasters hit, “Poison Ivy,” the band rejuvenated a stellar ‘surf’ rock vibe, especially in the hands of Fraser Melvin, whose mastery of the lead guitar shone all night.
Whether performing up-tempo numbers or the slower paced tracks, Sam Polley and The Old Tomorrows earned constant applause and feedback from the room. And to demonstrate their gratitude, the band rewarded everybody with a fun and lively rendition of The Contours’ “Do You Love Me” as their coup de grace. Team GDW and friends had a wonderful experience at The Moonshine Café, with some great music that helped us forget about the falling snow outside. Fortunately, we do not have to wait too long to catch up with Sam Polley once more. With the release of Jim Cuddy’s new album, “Constellation,” Sam will join both Devin and Jim (along with long-time family friend Barney Bentall) on a cross-country promotional tour taking place over the next few weeks. If you do not have tickets for this special event, I strongly recommend that you source some immediately lest you miss a unique opportunity to experience the Cuddy family and friends in action.
Sam Polley Set List:
- Wearing That Loved On Look (Elvis Presley cover)
- What Did I Do?
- Love Potion Number Nine (The Coasters cover)
- Dresser Drawer
- Crazed Country Rebel (Hank Williams III cover)
- Time Forgot
- Wish You Well
- Come Back To Me (Barney Bentall cover)
- Melt Away
- Rude Girl
- Wild Night (Van Morrison cover)
- ***Unknown Title***
- Walking The Dog (Rufus Thomas cover)
- Sixteen tons (Merle Travis cover)
- You’re Gonna Be Mine
- Poison Ivy (The Coasters cover)
- Would Not Mind
- The Night That Pat Murphy Died (Great Big Sea cover)
- Up On Cripple Creek (The Band cover)
- Temporary Love
- Do You Love Me (The Contours cover)