Luke Doucet

By Peter Hemminger

Luke Doucet is a certified Canadian treasure. An in-demand studio musician since he was 15, frontman of critically acclaimed, but largely ignored, West Coast rockers Veal, and a solo artist who’s debut, Aloha Manitoba, is one of the best records of 2001.

Now that Six Shooter Records (the label Doucet calls home) has struck a large scale distribution deal with Warner, he’s being thrust back into the spotlight. Outlaws is more consistent than most of Veal’s albums, but harder rocking than Aloha, making this a balanced introduction to the artist.

Half of Outlaws features previously released songs, but Doucet takes advantage of the live settings. A gifted guitarist, he fingerpicks some incredibly complex patterns and lets out highly creative solos. He even changes the moods of some of his songs, notably the now almost arena-ready “Pedro” and the suddenly subdued “Spiderman.” None of it comes off as showing off though, his stellar musicianship really shows off the strength of the songwriting.

The new material consists of one cover (Tom Waits’ “Gun Street Girl”) and four originals, all of which fit comfortably into Doucet’s established sound. “Annie Lu” uses two simple chords to back the ode to “a whole lot of girl for one little boy’s heart.” “Emily, Please” sounds like a Veal outtake, especially with its hints of alcoholism and heartbreak.

Like his current tour-mate Danny Michel, Luke Doucet is as comfortable alone as with a full backing band. Outlaws’ focuses on mostly songs with the full band, leaving out a large part of Doucet’s live appeal; it makes for an incomplete document of his live music. It does provide a good cross-section of the man’s work though, and the 50/50 split between new and old makes it as worthwhile for established fans as it is for newbies. Another solid effort from a definately underrated artist.

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