While the Great White North has certainly spawned a veritable cornucopia of exciting and talented musicians in a wide variety of genres, I have long maintained that there is one sound which we Canadians consistently do better than anybody else: blues-rock. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that most of our country is composed of empty wilderness and highways. Or maybe it is because our lovely summers are unfairly short and bitter winters cruelly long. Whatever the reason, we just do it right. Need proof? Big Sugar and the Tragically Hip. I defy anybody to name a superior blues-rock band. If you include those acts who also have a hint of country in their musical motifs then the pool of talent only gets bigger: Tom Cochrane And Red Rider, Blackie and The Rodeo Kings and Blue Rodeo are just a few examples. While I don't think Stripper's Union is quite the same standard as the bands I just mentioned, they are certainly a unique new addition to the pantheon.
The brainchild of Rob Baker, more commonly known as the outstanding lead guitarist of personal favourites The Tragically Hip, and Craig Northey, the former lead singer of Vancouver alt-rock band Odds, The Deuce is only the second album from Stripper's Union since their first one in 2005. And it is a bit of a variety pack. You have plenty of Baker's usual blues-rock style to be sure, with songs like “Fade to black”. When the band's tight horn section shows up in tracks like “Only lows” however, Stripper's Union sound like they just walked out of a Jazz club. Then there are the country-rock strains as well. The twangy guitars in “When your beauty fades you'll be lonely” are unmistakable. Northey's alt-rock roots clearly show too, with “High” being an example. Best of all are when these elements blend together to make a high tempo and soulful number like “Making strange.” Sure the lyrics aren't all that impressive. There are your usual collection of lonely hearts, empty roads, gray days and wild nights. But they're catchy enough and they compliment the rhythms well, which is where this band shines.
Ultimately The Deuce is a fun listen. This album has enough variety in turns of tempo and musical style that it should appeal to a fairly broad cross section of tastes. This variety also had an unfortunate side-effect. I really didn't love the album from top to bottom. There are several songs which I would happily skip over. “Whiteout” probably being my least favourite. Despite those few exceptions I really enjoyed The Deuce. It's high energy and the performances are superb. Stripper's Union reminds me of another Canadian blues-rock act Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. If you're a fan of theirs you'll probably get a kick out of The Deuce. Listening to this album interested me enough to check out the band's first disc as well as be excited for their next one. Which means they must be doing something right.