Wed, Apr 23, 2014.
It's been a long, very successful trip for Antigonish group The Trews over the past ten-plus years. Since they rocked out of Nova Scotia back then with the release of their first EP and then The House Of Ill Fame album, they've notched 14 top ten Rock Radio chart hits, definitely a huge national presence and one of the country's favourite real rock bands. And there's not that many of them left in this age of divas and DJ's. To some, rock and roll has been dismissed since 2000 as being old-hat, but look a little closer and you'll find most people are still rock fans, and actually desperate for enough new rock bands to fill their ears. But talk about a hard road to take; since rock is sixty years old now, ya, 1954 it was pretty much born, you have all that competition and history to fight. Heck, you have to be good enough to end up on playlists alongside classic Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, BTO, you hear these songs every day on your radio. Good luck breaking in.
That's why The Trews success is so remarkable, coming out of the Maritimes, having hit albums, and playing, playing, playing. Another criticism of rock is that its lost its creative spark, there's no innovation any more, it's all been done. What The Trews have done is constantly develop, change, mix it up, and challenge themselves. That continues on their brand-new album, called simply The Trews. It's the most varied disc of the group's career, bringing together all the bold moves they've made in the past, along with some fresh ones. A few years back, The Trews discovered a simple, but perfect way to shake things up, even though they were doing very well, thank you very much. The tunes were selling, the shows were crowded and getting bigger. But The Trews, known for high energy, came out unplugged, and did an acoustic tour. What crowds soon found was that even stripped back, the band and the songs were still full of energy, and a lot more musical moments than they'd noticed amidst the amplification. The strong harmonies, for instance, the bits of Celtic colouring from Cape Breton. And of course, the quality song writing.
With the new album, that spirit continues, and you get some touches of the acoustic, on the ballad 65 Roses and the calm and lovely In The Morning, a duet featuring guest Serena Ryder. She improves any song she's on, simply because of her terrific singing. Then there's a tune called The Sentimentalist, not acoustic, but not the big rock sound we associate with the group either, it's a reflective pop number with a great melody, chiming guitar chords, a sweeter touch on a love song, something I've not heard from them before. And like the best pop songs, it takes a left turn towards the end, with a whole new rhythm and structure, quite the production instead of punchy rock.
Of course, that is here too, lots of examples, including lead single What's Fair Is Fair. And undoubtedly, that's what most people will hear, another great rocker from The Trews. But over the whole disc, they continue to develop, stay hungry, and most of all, help show that rock and roll is still very important in a lot of lives, young and old.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).