Tony Allen Steam

As a member of Toronto bluegrass stalwarts the Backstabbers, Allen has rightfully earned a reputation as one of Canada’s best fiddlers. Taking a break from the Backstabbers’ normal repertoire, Allen has put together Steam as a labour of love for songs drawn entirely from obscure early 20th century Southern sources. The album is certainly a treasure trove for old time music fans and with accompaniment from banjoist Chris Coole, vocalist Kristine Schmitt and upright bassist Sam Petite, the performances betray no modern touches apart from the sparkling production. Of particular note are mournful takes of "Hang Down Your Head And Cry” and "This World Can’t Stand Long,” which are counterbalanced by the rollicking "Ham Beats All Meat” and "Hand Me Down My Walking Cane,” featuring blues pianist Julian Fauth. If vintage recordings have too many scratches, Steam is the next best thing. (Independent)