Steel City Trawler, Luke Doucet’s fourth solo album, finds him mining all kinds of classic sounds, and putting his Gretsch White Falcon [ed. That’s a guitar originally released in 1955 known for it’s visually distinct white body.] to work in a batch of new songs that range from stomping, country rock to quiet fingerpicked acoustic pieces. There’s even a revved-up version of Gordon Lightfoot’s 1974 hit, “Sundown” with a trashy, Neil Young-like guitar solo.
In fact, from the Keith Richards licks in “Dirty, Dirty Blonde” to the “Lust for Life” riff in “Thinking People,” Doucet seems inspired by the classics more than anything else, and has never been as far from his past with Vancouver’s freaky surf-punk purveyors Veal. That said, Steel City Trawler is a collection of solidly-written songs that would appeal to the listener with a taste for twangy, cleanly produced pop-rock.
Doucet’s playing is worth mentioning; he intersperses plenty of tasty licks into the proceedings, adding interest and not distracting from the songs’ progressions. He’s a great player, and not too proud to do a one-note guitar solo when it’s called for, as in “Dusted.” All the songs have a planned-out thoughtfulness, and show a maturity that comes through in the arrangements and the way all the instruments work together.
Steel City Trawler works best on its quietest track, “Magpie.” This song has what you need—dynamic fingerpicking, textural electric guitar reverberating distantly in the background, two-part harmony on the vocals and gripping key changes that really hold the listener’s attention. There’s a sense of restraint and space that contrasts with the fullness of the other songs.
There’s plenty to listen to on Steel City Trawler. While it’s unlikely that anyone who doesn’t already appreciate rootsy rock music will find a whole lot to like, it’s a detailed album with many layers to each song. One gets the sense that it could be heard many times before all its details are experienced.