Luke Doucet

Luke Doucet’s World Includes Joy Division And Gordon Lightfoot

By David McPherson, ChartAttack staff, September 3, 2010

When Luke Doucet held a release party for his new album Steel City Trawler there was Steamwhistle beer, whisky sour shots, oysters and the likes of Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene in the audience taking in Doucet and his band The White Falcon playing their 11 new songs.

Flash back to the fall of 2009 and I had the privilege to spend a few days in the studio with Doucet while he was putting the finishing touches on this record. The disc, which is a “tip of the hat to Steeltown,” was mostly cut at John Dinsmore’s Lincoln County Social Club in Liberty Village and was produced by Sloan’s Andrew Scott. The record was put on the shelf for a few months while Doucet and wife Melissa McLelland toured this summer as part of Sarah MacLachlan’s band for Lilith Fair.

Hamilton, Sloan, a Canadian folk icon, and a 1980s Brit-pop eccentric all found their way onto this follow up to the critically-acclaimed Blood’s Too Rich (2008). Steel City Trawler oozes rock and soul — harking back to the classics such as The Rolling Stones, Neil Young And Crazy Horse and Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers.

Here is Doucet’s dissection of a couple of the tracks on Steel City Trawler:

On cover songs:
I have a classic-rock attitude towards covers. It’s a good way to end the set and keep up the energy… more important, it’s a really good way to raise the bar on your own songwriting. You’re playing classics and you can’t help but notice your own songs wilt by comparison.

Why he chose Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” to cover:
You know how when you hear a song in your mind’s eye and then you hear the actual recording they aren’t always the same? Think about Neil Young’s “Down By The River.” In my head, it’s a huge, rock ‘n’ roll thing, but then when you listen to the actual recording it’s a fair bit humbler. “Sundown” was another one of those songs where I imagined it in my head to be a big song; it is a big song, but it’s not a big recording, it’s also fairly humble. In my head, I had it like a Crazy Horse song. Initially I thought, “Let’s play this song live. Wouldn’t that be a fun way to end the set?”

There was a tribute to Gordon Lightfoot at Nathan Philips Square [in Toronto] a few years ago and I did “Early Morning Rain.” That was my first real exposure to Lightfoot because I didn’t grow up with him. My parents were listening to The Band, Dylan, Neil Young and Tom Waits, but they weren’t listening to Lightfoot. After I was asked to do this tribute, I started to listen to a bunch of his records and immediately fell in love with his songwriting. The funny thing about that gig is that [folk veteran] Brent Titcomb was at that event and I turned around to look at him backstage while I was singing “Early Morning Rain”; Brent had this look on his face like he had seen a ghost. Afterwards I asked him, “Hey man, what’s going on? You look a little thrown off?” And he said, “Do you have any idea how much you look like Gordon Lightfoot?”

It never occurred to me, but there was this connection. I love discovering or unearthing a love affair between myself and another artist that I wasn’t aware of. I have huge black holes in my music listening and I’m just trying to fill them in once in a while.

On Joy Division and “The Ballad Of Ian Curtis”:
I saw two films: the Anton Corbijn film Control and then another bio-doc about Joy Division in the space of two days and they made an impression on me. Ian Curtis is a compelling figure… not compelling in the sense I don’t think I would have liked him or his music, but compelling in that if he had been a sculptor or a race car driver, I probably would have still written a song about him just because the films I saw cast a light on an interesting person. After I recorded the song I read the bio that his wife wrote. She doesn’t paint a very flattering picture. I was running and had seen these films and had Joy Division music running around in my head and by the time I got home I had written this song. I went to junior high in Winnipeg in the mid-’80s. I was at a preppy school where the preppy girls all had sweet smelling perfume, so when I think about music from that era I think of the preppy kids who were listening to Joy Division, The Cure, New Order, etc… all that post-industrial maudlin British pop. So, when I hear that music today, it reminds me of being in junior high. There’s a sort of nostalgia that went with it.


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Springsteen’s ghost fails to overshadow Jesse Malin’s performance

Springsteen’s Ghost Fails To
Overshadow Jesse Malin Performance

By David McPherson (CHARTattack) September 16, 2010 2:21 pm
Live Review
  • September 15, 2010
  • Toronto, ON
  • Horseshoe Tavern
  • 4 / 5
Jesse Malin (Photo by Jeff Ross)

On the same night Roger Waters rocked the Air Canada Centre and Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) parties were in full swing, the Horseshoe Tavern was crammed from the street to the stage with concertgoers hoping to see The Boss.

The rumour mill started turning faster and faster over the past week as people put two and two together: Bruce Springsteen was in town Tuesday for TIFF; he and Jesse Malin recorded a song together on the songwriter’s last record; Malin had a show at the ‘Shoe on Wednesday.

A quick check on Craigslist earlier in the day saw $15 tickets for the sold-out show being offered for 10 times that price. Other sources suggested some people had shelled out close to $1,000 to get inside the Tavern’s doors. The ‘Shoe’s website laid the odds at Springsteen showing up at a very steep 12,000 to 1, but those odds were apparently good enough for most who didn’t even know the talented Malin to buy a ticket, at whatever the cost — just hoping for a glimpse of Bruce.

Alas, Springsteen’s much-rumoured appearance never materialized, but the speculation gave Malin an opportunity to win over the Springsteen fans and celebrity chasers alike.
The kid from Queens, New York didn’t disappoint. He used to front glam-punk band D Generation many moons ago, and this punk rock energy and passion propelled his performance.
Drawing mainly from his new record — Love It To Life — which dropped a couple of weeks ago, Malin and his four-piece band, The St. Mark’s Social, gave the capacity crowd a 90-minute sweat-soaked set. Songs that stood out were “Burning The Bowery,” “Burn The Bridge” and “Black Boombox.” The last one was the only time Malin even mentioned Springsteen’s name, and it was dropped along with a long list of songwriters he admired before busting into the tune.
Malin also dug into his catalogue of solo records, beginning with the acoustically-inclined “Wendy” and “Queen Of The Underworld,” both from The Fine Art Of Self Destruction. Other standouts were a sizzling rendition of “Prisoners Of Paradise” from Glitter In The Gutter and a singalong cover of The Replacements “Bastards Of Young.” 

Malin proved he was in command, and left the stage and weaved his way through the crowd mid-set, telling everyone to get down, which saw the packed place all crouch down as he continued to sing.

Malin told some great stories behind the songs throughout the night, and at several points in the show, he got the audience clapping along. One of the more memorable tales involved a preamble about his high school days as a punk-loving misfit; he was suspended for slapping his penis down on a girl’s desk. His mom grounded him, but while in his room he overheard her tell her boyfriend the story and the two broke out laughing. The punchline: Malin wasn’t grounded for long.
So in the end, The Boss was a no-show, but those who stayed until the wee hours got to meet Malin and pose for a picture with him. Malin came out and mingled with the crowd around 1 a.m., bringing a bottle of tequila with him as he poured shots for the stragglers and they all did a toast, “to life,” and to Malin’s memorable performance.

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Old 97’s American Songwriter interview

Old 97’s On Their Best Album Since Too Far to Care

By David McPherson December 6th, 2010 at 11:17 am

American Songwriter caught up with Murry Hammond, bassist for the Old 97’s, right before Thanksgiving. He was at the post office, and doing some other last minute errands getting ready to host 14 of his in-laws. The band is currently on tour promoting their stellar new album, The Grand Theatre Volume 1, recently released on New West Records. Come spring, the band is set to release a second volume. Hammond talked about how proud he is of the rawness of this record and how its songs hark back to the Old 97’s earliest recordings.

Fifteen years on, The Grand Theatre Volume 1 returns to the band’s roots and early influences in terms of its garage-rock, loose sound. Did you purposely try to rediscover that rawness?

I’ve always thought that the 97’s at our best are the 97’s at their rawest and ‘garage-iest.’ The rawness is always there, but the edges are taken off by the studio experience. Working with producer Salim [Nourallah], he allows that rawness to come through, especially on this record.

We walked into the studio this time with the philosophy that it was going to be all about the spirit over perfection on every single track. That’s how you get great records. Think of your favorite records and that’s what they did. You can’t talk about liking the Kinks, The Beatles or whoever, and then go into the studio and do something that they wouldn’t do, such as getting too precious with your music and ignore the raw, greatness of what you do. We are lucky to be one of those bands. There might be a little bit of sloppiness to it, but there is so much mojo heaped on top of it that it becomes a magical thing. I’m very proud of that, and I’ve always wanted to be in a band like that.

What’s the secret to keeping that mojo alive? Does having side projects help?

I don’t think the side projects play a major role in what keeps things fresh. The four guys have this permanent chemistry. It’s there despite anything, it doesn’t need any help. We are very fortunate that way. We just show up in the same room and it’s there. The thing the little side projects do for the guys who write a lot of songs is that they get to have more than one outlet for their music. But, for that truly magical thing, it happens in the 97’s.

I understand you are pretty proud of this record.

I’m probably as proud of this record as I’ve been since Too Far to Care. I like all of our records, but I like this one about as well or better than anything we’ve done since the early 1990s. It’s just a really good period for us and it reflects that great mood that is in the band. It’s a good indicator of how many red blood cells we’ve got left. I’m really, really proud of my band right now.

You recorded so much material that you’re putting out The Grand Theatre Volume 2 in the spring. Why not put out a double disc now?

We thought it was too much music when we went to listen to it. Maybe we got a little tired of listening to our own record. So, we turned it into a positive. We thought if we add more music to it, we could have two full albums all at once. We took a record that was already a double record length and added an additional six songs that we had not touched the first time around. Did it in the same studio, the same way, and then re-recorded a couple of songs. We had enough material for a double record with outtakes and bonus tracks. We now have this 29-song monster period; we will always look at this period fondly for how prolific it was.

Tell me about the songs you contributed to this record. What’s “You Were Born to be in Battle” about? It has a real Johnny Cash feel.

I’m very pleased with my contributions. It’s not easy to stand alongside a Rhett Miller as a songwriter because I’m not Rhett. It’s all I can do to show up a couple of times on a record and try to match him. Regarding “You Were Born to be in Battle,” I tend to write a lot of songs in that frame of mind. I wrote it talking to my son about life and what’s in store for him … the good and the bad. It became very Johnny Cash-like, because not only does it have a bit of that sound, it also has a bit of the big, old stuff that he would so often write around. That is where my compass points when it comes to songwriting. The stuff I gravitate towards subject wise is not really relationship stuff, it tends to be more about big questions — good and evil, life and death, etc. The more ‘heavy’ stuff without being too grizzly about it.

What about ‘You Smoke Too Much’?

I don’t write a ton of relationship songs, but that was one of them. It’s a song about letting go of something you need to let go of in the romantic world. It was a tough song. Like everything else I do, it’s fairly autobiographical. It’s about something you are clinging onto, like a vice. After a point of you not letting go, it becomes the little raccoon that is holding onto the little shiny disc while the hunters are coming along with a club and they are going to bash your damn head in. You know what to do, but are unable to do it and you are mad about it.

Any of Rhett’s compositions that really stand out?

There is a pair that I really get a kick out of: “Love is What You Are” going into “Please Hold On While the Train is Moving.” I just love that it is about eight psychedelic minutes between those two songs. There is just this sonic, Technicolor thing happening. It is like a lot of the records I love from the Sixties, like The Zombies and The Electric Prunes.

Any comments on working in this new age of delivering music digitally, and the decline of record stores?

Everything has to change and whether you like it or not, with the good comes the sad. For me, the sad is the record store going away. At the same time, as time goes further on, I’m just going to be some old fart that remembers the record store and nobody else is going to give a shit or wonder why I would be sad about that.

It will sound like old-timey stories when I tell them what it was like to go to a store, flip through a bunch of bins and look at the covers and wonder what a band sounds like and get to know the people who work there. Even now, it’s starting to sound old-timey, but it’s really going to be an old fart grandpa story one of these days. Bring it on I guess, I’m sad to see it go, but can’t stop it; there will be record stores in a sense, but they sure won’t look like they used to. Our challenge is to find that human interaction in the new place that it is going to happen; it will happen, but it’s our choice to make it happen.

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Top 100 Canadian singles

The Top 100 Canadian Singles: Leonard Cohen, Steppenwolf, And “American Woman”

By David McPherson October 15th, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Coffee tables invite conversation. So does music. No wonder music is a fine subject for a book that finds a permanent home on your living room table. Veteran Canadian journalist and deejay Bob Mersereau recently published a book that he hopes will spark these conversations – dialogue that specifically looks at songs written by musicians from above the 49th parallel. With vintage photographs, the book explores the stories behind the songs and the wealth of talent of those wielding the pens in the land of the true north strong and free. The Top 100 Canadian Singles is a follow up to Mersereau’s 2007 book The Top 100 Canadian Albums. I chatted with the musicphile recently at the King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto during his book tour. Here are some snippets of our coffee table conversation.

Is it a little ironic that the No. 1 Canadian single in the book (“American Woman”) by The Guess Who has the word American in its title?

No. The song is about Canada. It was Burton [Cummings] lyric about touring in the United States as a Canadian at a very contentious time in the U.S. when everything was going on with Vietnam, race riots, and all the other political protests in the late 1960s; it was crazy when you crossed that border. This is Burton Cummings going, ‘man I don’t like this stuff; I think we are doing it better in Canada.’ That said, that song rocks. There is a reason Lenny Kravitz had a hit with it 30 years later. It has a riff and it has staying power. It is the representative song of what is perhaps the quintessential Canadian band who were a regional success and the first real Canadian superstars. Everyone else to that point – from Paul Anka to Neil Young and Joni Mitchell – had to cross the border to get to that level. For The Guess Who to remain based in Canada for all of that and keep their Canadian identity and viewpoint was amazing. They were the biggest selling band in the world in 1970.

Do you think there is a Canadian theme/identity running through the songs?

It’s a risky game to try to attribute a national style. We can say Canadians write about things like nature more, but everyone writes about nature. We can say we write about snow, but not every Canadian band writes about snow. I’ll be the first to say I’ve fallen into that trap, but I do believe by and large Canadians are excellent at the craft of songwriting with a folk tradition. We have a folk tradition that has existed since immigration to the New World. It was nurtured in the logging camps of Upper and Lower Canada and the woods of Quebec … these people had nothing else to do but entertain each other with their simple hand-built instruments. Look at this list and you’ll see people who know how to craft songs.

A lot of Americans probably equate Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” to a homage to hitting the road on your motorbike, but it’s actually another Canadian classic right?

Yes, the song is at No. 6 and it was written by songwriter Mars Bonfire from Ontario. He wrote that song about finally buying his first car, which was a Ford Falcon. To think that image of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper on motorcycles in Easy Rider was inspired by a Ford Falcon in small town Ontario.

Were you surprised Leonard Cohen’s epic “Hallelujah” just cracked the Top Five?

It was a big surprise, but it really only became a single in the last couple of years due to downloads. It’s become an anthem. It’s a song that was discovered first by musicians. That Cohen album did nothing … it wasn’t even released in the U.S. because CBS wouldn’t release it. They famously told Leonard, we know you are great, but are you any good? This was the worst point of Cohen’s career for marketability. It was slowly discovered by other artists over years — most notably Jeff Buckley and more recently K.D. Lang, who performed it at the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

What is the point of books of lists like this?

The point is to promote that there are 100 great songs … it’s more about that than what is specifically on the list. I could have written a book that was just as interesting on the songs from 101 to 200. Look at the names in this book—they are people who either do high-quality folk material such as The Band who invented the genre we now call Americana. Then, think of the singer-songwriter era and the whole California scene with Jackson Browne, Carole King, etc. Who are the best? Joni [Mitchell] and Neil [Young]. And, where did they come from? The Prairies. Joni Mitchell writing about escape with the line: “I wish I had a river to skate away on.” No one in Los Angeles would write a line like that. Or Ian and Sylvia with “Four Strong Winds” – a song about going out to Alberta and the migrant workers, that is similar to the Woody Guthrie tradition.

What was your No. 1 Canadian single?

I have my own compiled list of songs from 1 to probably 1,700. I won’t reveal what is No. 101, but my No. 1 is Ron Sexsmith’s song “Secret Heart” that is No. 98 in the book. I can’t recall the rest of my Top 5.

To see the list and weigh in on the debate, see:

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Lilith Fair 2010 – Molson Ampitheatre

Lilith Fair:

A True Celebration Of Women 

07/26/10 1:03pm

by David McPherson (CHARTattack)

Live Review
  • Date: Jul 24 2010
  • City: Toronto, ON
  • Venue: Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
  • Rating: 4 / 5
Sarah McLachlan

Lilith Fair dubs itself “a celebration of women in music,” and that it was. Not only was it an empowering day for women when the festival rolled in to Toronto, but it was also an empowering day for music.

The fans who flocked to the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre down by Lake Ontario on this soggy Saturday clearly didn’t care that organizers had to cancel 15 of the tour’s dates.

Fans mingled in the i4c village while staying dry and checking out eco-friendly businesses, not-for-profits and charities such as Better World Books, War Child Canada, and AlterEco Fair Trade, before catching the music.

Chardonnay and Coors Light ruled the day. Ponchos, umbrellas, women’s equality and a celebration of their music and songs did, too. The overriding message was we all have a gift to give, and amidst the madness of life, you should never forget to nourish the gift of music and support the passion of those who play it.

The female-to-male ratio was figured to be nearly 10-1. There was so much estrogen running around that the organizers turned one of men’s washrooms into a women’s. Even then, there were women who wanted to get by security and use the men’s lavatories since the line-ups for the ladies’ loos were still too long.

The rain poured down early to late afternoon, but Mother Nature took pity on the 15,000-plus concertgoers and stopped crying once night-time rolled around.

In the late afternoon, with the rain pouring down, Melissa McClelland — part of Sarah McLachlan‘s backing band — got a chance to headline her own set in her hometown on one of the side stages. McClelland put on a stellar show, playing songs from Victoria Day, her most recent record, along with a few new numbers. She was joined on stage by the leader of Lilith herself, as McLachlan played with Melissa’s band on the Yamaha keyboard while singing harmony with McClelland. You could tell the sultry singer was truly awed as she said, “Ten years ago, I was here in the pouring rain as a fan watching Sarah and dreaming one day I could be a part of it.”

Following McClelland’s set, one fan, who clearly already had a few too many Rock Stars in her bloodstream, told this scribe to relax. Despite where this came from, the comment was well spoken as the vibe of the day was one of chill. Another fan did tai chi in the aisles with both headlights a glowin.’

McClelland’s performance was followed by a tight set by Tara MacLean, who offered a song she wrote recently in regards to the G20 Summit that happened in the Big Smoke. Another highlight was a quiet version of U2’s “Wake Up Dead Man.”

The Court Yard Hounds kicked off the main stage entertainment at 5:50 p.m. These two Dixie Chicks in disguise were backed by a seven-piece band; this pair of bluegrass belles made the most of their short set. It was marked by two-part harmony and fantastic instrumentation, and was a hoedown by Lake Ontario. The highlight was “See You In The Spring,” Emily Robison’s duet with Jakob Dylan on their record. Here, the keyboardist filled in admirably on this tale of a star-crossed couple from opposite ends of the country.

Chantal Kreviazuk was dwarfed behind the Yamaha Grand Piano sporting daisy dukes, a tassled tube top and desert sand slouchy boots, and played a mix of songs from Plain Jane, her most recent record, along with a host of covers. Kreviazuk had about 15 drinks lined up behind her, ranging from milk to water to beer. John Denver’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane” from the Armageddon soundtrack gave Kreviazuk her first big break south of the border, and on this night this hit resonated as the near sold-out venue sang along from the lawn right on down to the front row.

McLachlan joined Kreviazuk for “Invincible,” Plain Jane‘s first single. The other high from her set was a nod to Kelly Clarkson; she introduced this by saying, “Now I’m going to do something crazy,” before she played “Walk Away,” the hit she and husband Raine Maida co-wrote with Clarkson and Kara DioGuardi for the inaugural winner of American Idol. But rather than a radio-friendly pop hit, Kreviazuk turned it into a reflective piano piece and accompanied by cellist Kevin Fox.

Nine-time Grammy winner Mary J. Blige kicked things up a notch in her first ever Lilith Fair appearance when she came strutting onto the stage in her stylin’ stilettos and designer leggings at a quarter to nine. She was backed by an incredible 10-piece band filled with soul, which included four female backup singers, and showed why she has all that aforementioned hardware. The highlight of not only her set, but for the day, was a cover of Led Zeppelin’s iconic “Stairway To Heaven.” Blige also honoured U2 with a version of “One.” Even the security guards were getting their groove on in the aisles during Blige’s blistering set.

Lilith co-founder McLachlan arrived to the stage shortly before 10 p.m. and headed straight to a grand piano where she effortlessly sang “Angel.” Luke Doucet added just enough testosterone and some sick guitar to accompany McLachlan’s angelic voice throughout her set, letting his Gretsch White Falcon take the listener to new heights. From there, it was one hit after another, all showing that despite a lengthy layoff from touring and recording, McLachlan definitely has her groove back. “Building A Mystery,” “World On Fire,” “I Will Remember You” and “Adia” were just a handful of the hits she performed.

McLachlan also offered many songs off Laws Of Illusion, her new record. Before diving into the final song before the encore, the sultry songstress asked, “Are you guys ready for dessert?” She then played “Ice Cream” with a crowd singalong.

Shortly before the 11 p.m. curfew, all the women who performed that day were invited to return to the stage to conclude the evening with Patti Smith’s “Because The Night.” Blige was noticeably absent. Doucet’s daughter Chloe even got in on the action, smiling and singing along, joining a sextet of women performers from the day who all shared a microphone before all bowing together centre stage, thanking the fans who braved the rain to enjoy a day of music, song and a celebration of some fine female songwriters.

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Sunday morning coming down

Rain pours down and coffee is poured. Time to write.

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Hello world!

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

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