Best-of ’10:: Luke Doucet Steel City Trawler

When it comes to Nova Scotia born, Hamilton based guitar shredder Luke Doucet, most of Canada takes his songs, his talent and his sound for granted. The man’s versatility allows him to beef up the afternoon radio friendly songs of Sarah Mclachlan, rip through surf rock jams as part of Veal, or build folky/roots riffs for his muse Melissa McClelland, but that diversity carries over to his solo career.


Luke’s put his heart on sleeve with records of folk, blues, country tunes and dDespite all his success, something’s never quite clicked when it comes to mass appeal. Praise always follows the , “he’s a great guitarist” school of thought, not that “he’s a great artist.” So, if you asked me if the answer for Doucet was shifting to a more classic rock sound, I probably would have shook my head disapprovingly, but when you settle into Steel City Trawler - a tribute to the city he calls home and the people in his life - a new found musical freedom that rewards honesty, big guitar licks, solos and catchy choruses fits Luke like a well tailored suit. Petty infused rockers chug along giving Steel City Trawler a hint of nostalgia that Doucet not only embraces, but embellishes.


Any music fan pushing the borders of thirty will smile when the New Order/Joy Division tribute “The Ballad of Ian Curtis” - a song that should find Doucet sharing radio time with the artists he’s helped out over the years - or the Replacements sneer and energy of “Dusted” explode out of the speakers, but this is a record that spans generations (I mean, a Lightfoot cover. How timeless is that?). Remarkably, the forage into classic rock allows Doucet to put his guitar work front and center without worrying about the repercussions of solos and intricacy.


SCT opens with as big a sound as you’ll find, the faded denim and tattered leather of “You Gotta Get It”, and Luke and his band manage mood, pace and sweat masterfully for the rest of the record. Tender ballads like “Magpie” and “Hey Now” slow things down and highlight the songwriter Doucet has become. These songs aren’t just a talented guitarist slopping through stories and emotions to get to a solo or chunky riff; no, Doucet has spent years finding his voice and his point of view and Steel City Trawlers might just be him reaching the summit. The 11 songs hide some touching lyrics and social commentary just underneath the hooks, but Doucet almost never overreaches to the point where the message overpowers the medium.


Some of the credit certainly falls to first time producer, Sloan’s Andrew Scott. His freshness provided a sounding board for Doucet and the harmonies, cymbal crashes and quick trips across the pond (“Monkeys”) give this Hammer based LP a very classic Halifax feel. In fact, if the world was a fair place, SCT will get some of the same airtime as Plaskett’s latest opus - when the female vocals bust out of the melody on “Hey Now”, you can’t help but think of Ana Egge and Rose Cousins contributions on Three - but I wonder if people are willing to accept that Doucet continues to evolve. I wonder if people can see past the talented fingers and huge White Falcon guitar and acknowledge the strides Doucet and his band have made this time around. Lets hope so, because we need someone willing to turn the amps up to ten to play music for the masses… whether they are ready to hear it or not.


Thanks to the good people over at Six-Shooter, we have an exclusive d/l of “Some of You Folks”, a song where the chime of the guitar will warm your heart and the the acoustic and keys that dance over top the reverb are enough to get the dead moving.

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MP3:: Luke Doucet - Some of you Folks
Some of You Folks - Luke Doucet
From a literal standpoint, this story is for many of the women in my life but will likely find empathy with most; men & women alike. I wrote this as the ultimate expression of the proletariat in the sense that I imagined offering the opening stanza to a room full of people, knowing full well that it could be addressed to most of them individually, and then to share in the awkward intimacy that might result from exposing a collective loneliness. While this was initially written with specific people in mind, I think there are truisms here that are universal.

The sound of this recording is probably the closest to late era Veal recordings and for that reason it is almost nostalgic to my ears. The guitar is as pure “White Falcon” as possible. That guitar remains my #1 but many of the tracks on Steel City Trawler were put together using Fender Telecasters & Les Paul Juniors. For this song, I wanted the pure Falcon tone to dominate, with the springy sound of a Fender Deluxe Reverb on the verge of breaking up and very little else to color the sound until the end, when we disintegrate into a post-Hendrix, fuzz drenched orgy of feedback. I was once asked if music could convey a specific idea or simply an emotion. I was stumped by the question but I understand it better after having used this guitar explosion to convey the violence of loneliness.



This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 at 8:37 am and is filed under 2010, Best-of '10, Canada, Luke Doucet, Music, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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One Response to “Best-of ’10:: Luke Doucet Steel City Trawler”

John Jantunen August 31st, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Thanks for the track. My copy of the new album doesn’t come in at my local disc shop until tomorrow. That, the above review and Luke confiding that it’s close to late era Veal (finally) reassures me that it’ll be worth the wait. I would like to add that reviewers never seem to mention that Luke Doucet is also the producer behind my vote for the greatest Canadian songwriter of the past decade: Neville (NQ Arbuckle) Quinn. It’s pure twang turned up loud and he’s also got the best rasp your likely to hear post JC.

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