Luke Doucet plays honest rock ‘n’ roll
The term “rock ‘n’ roll” has been applied thickly to Luke Doucet’s newest record Steel Town Trawler by musician and fans alike.
His live show brings new life to the sixty year old genre.
With the dry, thin, untamed sound pioneered by The Rolling Stones and Dylan, Doucet and his band played to a packed audience at the Starlight last Thursday.
Described by Canadian folk veteran Garnett Rogers as “a terrifyingly good guitar player”, Luke pulled melodies from the White Falcon (his beautiful Gretsch hollow body guitar) that tore the air apart.
Doucet described opening act The Beauties as being frontrunners in an impending Canadian rock movement.
The Beauties displayed their blues and folk influences with a swampy, whiskey-soaked sound.
It did not take long for the crowd to jump to their feet and start singing with the band.
While Luke Doucet has exhibited a comprehensive array of song styles throughout his career.
Thursday’s show was a nearly unbroken ride through electric guitars and driving rhythms.
The captivating performance of a beautiful ballad entitled “Cleveland” offered a brief reprieve for stomping feet.
Other fan favourites were played including the title track from Blood’s Too Rich, “Long Haul Driver” and a rigorous tune by wife and bandmate Melissa McClelland.
Doucet is a renowned guitarist, working on and off with artists like Sarah McLaughlin for the past eighteen years.
It would be feasible for an artist as talented as Doucet to coast on his guitar playing alone, but he puts painstaking effort into his lyrics and melodies as well.
They are not filler. “I don’t consider any part of music less significant than any other part,” he stated, then proceeded to cite the likes of John Lennon, Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Paul Simon and Elvis Costello as a few of his song writing favourites.
Doucet has earned his reputation as one of the hardest working artists in Canadian music.
He currently lives in Hamilton with McClelland, which heavily influenced his latest album, though most of his time isn’t spent in one place.
Spending ten months of the year touring, often with his wife Melissa McClelland, many of Luke’s songs reflect a life on the road.
“I’m a big fan of geography. I started traveling around the country by myself when I was eleven years old,” said Luke. “The fact that I’m in a different city all the time is huge.”
“Thematically the album’s a bit pissier,” he said when asked about his new album Steel Town Trawler, pointing out the rebellious roots of the album’s genre.
“Rebellion still has to be a part of what rock ‘n’ roll means,” he continued.
The songs on the record are overall shorter, faster and louder than a lot of Luke’s previous work.
“There are politics on this record,” Doucet expanded. “Calling out bullshit has become a pet project of mine this year. There’s just a lot of it out there, not just musically, I mean in general.”
It is in important time to be outwardly political according to Doucet: “Our lives depend on it. Our existence as a culture, as a species depends on it.”
After discussing everything from nuclear weapons to religious feuds that threaten the planet, Luke returned to a deep sincerity about the creation of music and politics in art.
“Politics are subtle,” he said, “I mean, when John Lennon said ‘All you need is love’ that was political.”
“A lot of what passes for music these days is just made by some guy in a basement with a computer,” he stated.
Doucet further explained the phenomenon of manufactured music, saying, “You don’t have to be able to sing, we’ll fix it. Don’t worry about it we’ll get somebody else to write the song.”
This clearly isn’t the case with Luke Doucet, as anyone can easily detect an artful honesty both on his new record and in his live shows, demonstrating a real closeness with his craft.