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L.A. Beat

United Steelworkers of Montreal explore the roots of the scene

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Montreal is not the first city that comes to mind when you think of roots music, however United Steelworkers ofUnited Steelworkers of Montreal play the Slice, July 26. Photo by Trevor Weeks Montreal guitarist/ singer/harmonica player Gern f. disagrees.
The popular Montreal based roots band’s summer tour of folk festivals brings them to Lethbridge, July 26 at the Slice — their first visit  Lethbridge  in over a year, right after a  gig at the Calgary Folk Festival.
“It’s one of the strongest scenes we have there, it just isn’t the one that is usually exported. But there must be 30-40 organized roots bands there. It’s the backbone of all of the other scenes, but that’s not the big thing you hear about,”  he said adding, like many Montreal roots bands, the band ( including vocalist/ accordion player Felicity Hamer, Telecaster/banjo/ mandolin player Matt Watson, rhythm guitarist and mandolinist Shawn ‘Gus ’ Beauchamp’ , stand-up bassist Phil ‘Flipper’ Frumignac  and banjo/mandolin/ vocalist Dylan Perron) sprung from the seeds of one of numerous roots and old time jam sessions happening in Montreal.
“All of the bands out there are sitting on top of this old time jam and roots scene, though maybe in a couple of years Montreal will be known for their roots scene,” he said adding people like Bob Fuller have been running old time jams for 40 years.

“You can’t play anything released after the 60’s, so there is a continuous influx of kids coming up with acoustic guitars, banjos and mandolins,” he said.
“It’s the same old story whenever you have a Mecca or semi-Mecca for music, all of these folks move in from rural areas and it becomes a big melting pot of roots and traditional music. And then there’s the French side of the city,” he continued adding the United Steelworkers of Montreal came out of a long-standing Sunday jam  called the Dirty Ol Band Train Songs jam.

“It’s great. musicians will meet each other and play together and the next thing you know, you see a poster with those same five guys who are playing a show. It’s a lot of fun and really inspirational,” he said.
Currently, the United Steelworkers of Montreal  are enjoying  a “posh, laid back tour of folk festivals,” this summer.


“We love playing folk festivals, you go to a place, hang out for a few days and get great accommodations. Usually you drive a lot, play someplace different every day and come home  exhausted and broke. But here is where it all pays off,” said guitarist/vocalist Gern f. from a stop at the  Vancouver Folk Festival, adding they pick up gigs like Lethbridge in between festivals to keep gas in their gas tanks. They played the South Country Fair last year.

“I think we drove all the way out there just to play it. I remember just floating down the river. It’s a great festival, ” he continued.

“You’re going to be hearing us play really well, because we’ll be coming off three shows in five days, we’ll have  the footwork done and we’ll know the songs. Last time we were just coming off the third album and  the lyrics were new. After the Calgary Folk Fest, we’ll be coming at you with both barrels. We’ll come flying out of the gate and hit you  in the face with it, if that’s all right,” he enthused.
Tickets are $7 in advance, $10 at the door.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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