Steel City Trawler
It may have bemused Canadian guitarist Luke Doucet that he managed to win a folk award for his last album which he considered to be rock & roll, but it won’t surprise anyone who listens to his music. And yet again, with Steel City Trawler, Doucet and the White Falcon – the name of both his band and his beloved Gretsch guitar – has produced an album that’s both atmospheric and sensitive. There’s something for everyone in Doucet’s offerings, and in his heartwarming willingness to open himself up through his music.
What’s more, if there ever were proof that downloaded music is a poor substitute for having the CD in your hand, this is it. Inside the simple, black-and-white cover of the album, Doucet has called on artist David Collier to illustrate, comic-book-style and in vivid colours, the relationship he has with his adopted home, the port city of Hamilton, Ontario – the “Steel City” of the title.
It’s not a concept album as such, but Doucet has recognised the aspects of his life that are reflected in his writing, strung together some of the lyrics from each of the songs and left Collier to represent the city through images of Doucet walking through it as he struggles with his thoughts. Never one to keep his musical and private lives separate, Doucet also brings in his wife and daughter, describes the relief he finds in long-distance running and acknowledges that he is “airing out the baggage of our loved ones”.
Except for a cover of the classic “Sundown” by Ontario native Gordon Lightfoot, Doucet wrote all the songs on Steel City Trawler, some in conjunction with Andrew Scott, who is also a first-time producer of the album and plays most of the instruments that Doucet isn’t playing. Many of the songs reflect the universal struggles to deal with success and failure, love and life, while a few take a more idiosyncratic path. “Thinking People” is a celebration of blue-collar life, while “Dirty, Dirty Blonde” turns some notions of women on their heads.
The song that is probably the standout and also intrinsically the closest to the notion of the artwork is “The Ballad of Ian Curtis”, in which Doucet examines the creative legacy of the Joy Division frontman, who committed suicide at the age of 23. But Curtis’s end certainly isn’t Doucet’s: in the unusual love song “Love and a Steady Hand” he sings I need to be satisfied, I need to be alive. Despite the many internal struggles of this album, its message is somehow essentially positive, and it certainly rewards much repeated listening.
Luke Doucet begins his UK tour on October 19, and he'll be well worth seeing. See the gig guide for details.
CD release date: November 22.