July 2008

Canteen Knockout
July 17, 2008 The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto
Music For Urban Cowboys And Girls
by Sebastian Cook with photo by Sevrina
It is reasonable to assume that Canteen Knockout leader André Skinner may be the world’s only alt-country songwriter with a background as an indie-rock and funk drummer and an admitted passion for death metal. This explains the unique sound and vibe he has managed to create with Canteen Knockout, who were back home celebrating the re-release on Weewerk of their 2006 album Navajo Steel.

Starting off the four-band bill to a worrisomely sparse crowd was L’il Andy, the self-styled “Karaoke Cowboy” from Montreal and creator of the brilliantly titled “Home In Landfill Acres.” While his solo set was generally unremarkable and seemed too heavy on meandering vocals without enough balance from the guitar, the material from his full band is well worth a listen: www.myspace.com/lilandyandkaraokecowboy

Next up were The Unionist Ministers, a Peterborough outfit that may well have been my first acid-country experience. Their sound is reminiscent of Mississippi backwoods disco, full of cacaphonic electric guitar crunch with quirky accents of mandolin and accordion. I found myself greatly enjoying some of their songs, and turned off by others.

Just after 11 pm, it was Canteen Knockout’s turn to deliver their punch. “Being a few beers in,” Skinner worried about slurring, which by this time was probably the audience’s preferred method of delivery; and their live set indeed commands a chaser. Skinner is one who truly bares his soul on stage, his facial expressions are full of raw emotions that tell you exactly where his music comes from — a journey to places of pain and suffering and ultimately hope and redemption. Electric guitarist James Carroll adds a dynamic of rock and metal, with the distinctively different left-hand player’s tone. Uniting the melody is the haunting pedal steel drone; on this night, Dean Cavill ably filled in for the band’s regular player Alex Maxymiw.

The songs are full of engaging hooks — quick, to the point and onto the next story. “Georgia”, “The Drink” and “We Work” in particular are top-notch tunes that when heard live make one ponder the potentially huge audience for Canteen Knockout. “Overnight Girl” tells the tale of parting after one-night stand so many of us have lived but would never have the guts to express so candidly. This is visceral music that reminds you of where you’ve been and where you don’t want to return, yet also makes you count your blessings.

André Skinner
Canteen Knockout
André Skinner – vocals, acoustic guitar
James Carroll – electric guitar
Dean Cavill – pedal steel
Scott Whitmore – bass
Jake Adams – drums


We welcome your comments and feedback
Sebastian Cook
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The Live Music Report
Sevrina is a Toronto-based photographer whose passions are live music, wildlife and landscapes.
Click here to see more Photos by Sevrina.

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