Most people see Hamilton as nothing but smokestacks, slag heaps and steel mills.
But Luke Doucet has discovered a different side of the southern Ontario industrial town. Since moving there two and a half years ago with his wife, singer-songwriter Melissa McClelland, Doucet has spent a lot of time jogging along Hamilton’s streets and trails. The Winnipeg-raised, Nova Scotia-born musician has come to appreciate the wealth of parkland, century-old architecture and scenic waterfront. He now calls it home.
Doucet has called his sixth solo CD Steel City Trawler. The album even contains a 20-page mini-comic by Hamilton artist David Collier. In it, Doucet takes readers on a frame-by-frame tour of the city — up and down the escarpment steps, along the Bruce Trail conservation lands and into the core to visit its record stores and drinking establishments.
The 11 tracks, including a rocked-up version of Gordon Lightfoot’s Sundown, aren’t necessarily written about Hamilton, but Doucet makes the point that they were all born in the Steel City.
“This album is really more of a dedication to the city,” Doucet says over beers at This Ain’t Hollywood, one of Hamilton`s top live music venues.
Doucet is perhaps best known as Sarah McLachlan’s lead guitarist. But the 37-year-old musician has also developed a respected career as a singer, songwriter and producer. He released three albums with the indie Vancouver band Veal between 1996 and 2003 and produced three records for McClelland.
The music on Steel City Trawler is rough-hewn guitar-powered rock, in the tradition of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band or Neil Young and Crazy Horse. He’s considered one of Canada’s best guitarists. Doucet likes to think he’s earned that reputation by playing from the heart.
“Keith Richards, Neil Young, Springsteen, these guys aren’t what you’d call sophisticated guitarists, but they’re passionate and they’re the best,” says Doucet. “I learned a long time ago, when I’ve got a guitar in my hands, don’t be sophisticated, be passionate.”