United Steel Workers Of Montreal

Kerosene & Coal

BY Kerry DoolePublished Jul 19, 2007

This Montreal sextet won fans with their debut disc, Broken Trucks And Bottles, and have delivered an even stronger sophomore album. They fuse bluegrass, old-time country and populist folk strains, a hybrid that’s been called "city grass” (a stupid tag that should be killed off). The USWM sound is based on spirited guitars (electric and acoustic), banjo and mandolin, and the contrasting vocal styles of Gern F. (who also produced), Shawn (Gus) Beauchamp (the chief songwriter) and accordionist Felicity Hamer, who adds nice variety. Gern has a gruff, Waits-like delivery that occasionally overreaches but Gus (especially on the lovely "Ask Me To Stay”) and Felicity’s contributions are more consistently convincing. The grittiness of the sound mirrors the imagery, chockfull of "greasy old floors,” "dirty boats,” "dirty back roads” and even a "Big Ol’ Dirty Tattoo.” The vitality of the playing and the strength of the songwriting keep the proceedings from getting too dreary and bleak though. The working class solidarity sentiments of closing cut "Union Man” are a fitting end to a job well done.

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