Leslie Stanwyck and Johnny Sinclair were “one twang away from a country song,” their manager used to say. The pair made two albums with pop-rock legends The Pursuit of Happiness and another seven with Universal Honey, then after relocating to Saskatoon, Sask. found themselves adding that twang to their new band, Tucker Lane.
The band — core members Leslie (vocals), Johnny (bass), Wayne Pearson (drums) and Brent Carlin (guitar) with guest utility player Justin Bloudoff — grew out of the foursome’s rootsy cover band, Undercover Pirates, which put their spin on songs by Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Black Keys, Eric Clapton, Rolling Stones, The Clash and others. It then seeped into their originals.
Tucker Lane’s debut album, West of Minnesota, North of North Dakota — produced by the band — is chock full of upbeat country-pop like “Same Place;” “Wishing You Were Here,” “Sentimental Fool” and “You Still Love Me” with some edgier material such as the Stones-style rockers “Think You Know (Someone Like Me)” and “What It’s About?.” Banjo, fiddle and peddle steel are featured on nine of the 13 songs.
The couple, who met in TPOH, recorded 1988’s Love Junk and 1990’s One-Sided Story with Todd Rundgren before leaving to start Universal Honey in 1990. They had a fantastic run in both bands, a journey through music that they write about on West of Minnesota, North of North Dakota’s closing song, “What’s It About?”
“There’s been so many twists and turns in 27 years of playing music together,” says Johnny. “We’ve done it all, you name it — we’ve travelled Europe first-class opening for the Eurythmics when we were in The Pursuit of Happiness; opened for Duran Duran in the USA; did a van tour with Goo Goo Dolls in Universal Honey doing over 100 shows in one year together, from playing small clubs to Nassau Coliseum [in New York]. You have to wonder what it’s all about.”
In 2006 when their son was born they went into “mom and dad mode.” For fun, in 2011, they did a funky electronica project called The Bod with Dan Marfisi (Poe), then decided to take the huge step towards a quieter life and moved west of Minnesota, north of North Dakota — to Saskatoon. Johnny was born there but lived in Toronto 27 years; Leslie had never lived anywhere else but Toronto. It was a very different lifestyle.
“Saskatoon is a great place for our family and our son,” says Johnny. “He’s going to the same school I went to and we’re living in the same house I grew up in [the lead track and first single “Same Place” is about this], but it’s a different place than back then, when it was like the movie Stand By Me, all trains and bridges. There’s a lot going on here. The city is really growing; there’s a big boom, a lot of energy.”
To keep their chops up, they started playing in local clubs as an acoustic duo, Then in 2011 Johnny put together Undercover Pirates with his friend since grade School, Brent, and Wayne, who married a girl he went to high school with, so there is a sense of family in the band. The group would play several times a month. “People would often ask us if we do country. ‘At the time we didn’t,’” says Johnny. So they learned some, like Dwight Yoakam’s version of The Clash’s “Train in Vain.”
Inspired, Johnny says, “Leslie took the last song on our Christmas record, a duet with Jim Cuddy called ‘You Still Love Me,’ and made it into a country song. I picked up the bass and started doing a two-step bass line to it. It was kind of fun. If we were going to do this, it had to be this fun sort of country/americana like [Edmonton’s] Jr. Gone Wild, more pop, less art. We tried to incorporate that spirit into what we were doing, as well as the spirit of Love Junk, if that doesn’t sound too crazy.”
No, that perfectly describes Tucker Lane.
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