United Steel Workers of Montreal @ The Silver Dollar
By: James Sandham
Stout, sweating, red-faced and in an ill-fitting suit, Steel Workers' frontman, Gern F, is like a physical manifestation of the band's music, a near parody of the hard-living, gravel-voiced bar-circuit singer. And this, of course, is what makes the Steel Workers great: they are a band without pretence, one that embodies the music they create, an urbanized mishmash of outcast country, bluegrass and blues.
Gern bends the microphone low and burns out about half his vocal chords in a raw, throaty musical exposition that could rival Tom Waits. Filled by the ravishing Felicity Hamer on vocals and accordion; Matt Watson on telecaster, mandolin and banjo; Shawn 'Gus' Beauchamp on rhythm guitar; Roger Dawson on standup bass; Kevin McNeilly on banjo; and Sean b'y Moore on yet more mandolin, accordion and banjo, the Steel Workers' stage was almost as packed as the bar, and together they rushed from hard-stomping jamboree to washed-out ballads and back again, manic then comatose, smiling as the crowd of urban cowboys and alt-country fans got even drunker and even more vocal in their enthusiasm.
I walked out of there happy as fuck that these pioneers of the Montreal alt-country scene had made it to CMW once again. (weewerk) records founder and CMW festival organizer Phil Klygo deserves praise for that.