The United Steel Workers of Montreal

The Capital, Fredericton NB October 8

BY Ben ConoleyPublished Oct 30, 2007

The United Steel Workers of Montreal are a group best experienced in person. On the stereo their alt-country/ bluegrass/ working class blues come across just fine, but on stage the band take their image to an entirely different and irony-free level. The six members of the band (none of whom play drums) look as though they just left the local bar in the middle of downtown Anywhere after a long day of work, and stepped into the venue eager to share their tales of heartache and hardship. With an opening act that failed to show, the band were charged with having to play an extra long set that encompassed much of the material from their two studio albums, Broken Trucks and Bottles and the more recent Kerosene and Coal. The band took the stage to a surprisingly larger crowd than their last visit to the city and wasted no time getting those in attendance to stomp their feet, clap their hands and hoot and holler. With three singers (Gus, Gern and Felicity Hamer) sharing lead vocals and the rest of the band joining in through most of the songs, the Steel Workers were able to keep things changing enough to hold the interest of people who might not normally stick around for this type of music. Light-hearted songs such as "Big Ol’ Dirty Tattoo” and "Wandering Eye” were as funny as they were awkwardly relatable, while Gern’s Tom Waits meets Bruce Springsteen vocals on "Meaner than You” attempted to take things down a notch, prompting requests for Springsteen’s "Thunder Road,” which Gern said happens more often than not. However, the best moments came when the band played working class ballads including "Union Man” and "Goddamn the CPR.” While most people left for a cold walk home covered in beer splashed upon them from pints hoisted in the air, there was no question that spirits were high.

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