Owen Steel St. Paul's Church, Dawson City YK, July 20

Owen Steel St. Paul's Church, Dawson City YK, July 20
Photo: Madeleine Cummings
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"So, I've got some news," Owen Steel says, looking out over the pews in St. Paul's Church. "I'm going to be a father." There's applause, cheering. But he's kidding, and finishes the sentence: "One day!" One day he'll be a dad. For now he's content to muse about how fatherhood might feel and spin scores of future emotions into melodies. He stumbles and forgets the words occasionally, but the audience is forgiving, having felt a connection with him from the moment he stepped on stage.

Steel's songs all tell stories — some sweet, others sad — but arguably the most entertaining part of his live show is his soft-spoken and self-deprecating banter. He apologizes for having "a case of the shakes" and for making "mouth noises," both symptoms of nerves, but in being honest he endears himself to his audience. He talks about being stranded at the Cornwall bus station and composing "Lovers are Suckers," taking advantage of the church's acoustics by encouraging audience participation. But his best and most haunting song by far is "Wake," another forward-looking tune in which the Haligonian imagines himself as an old man coping with the death of his partner and contemplating his own end. Doug Macnearney and his father, James Steel, join him on stage for a few more upbeat songs of the roots and bluegrass variety. Highlights include Owen's tale of how four lobsters came to be murdered in his bathtub and his father's hip-swaying as he backs up his son on bass.