Guitarist and vocalist Ross Lizotte has been making music in Hamilton for some twenty years or more but it was back in 2007 that he hit a hallmark with a bunch of players that made his music come alive on the local live stage. While he was happy to toil in the studio alone, when he enlisted Geoff Ball (cello), Caoline Olsen (viola), Vince Waters (drums) and Eric Hanenberg (bass) Jason Sansilo (banjo, guitar), Lizotte found the perfect collaborators to bring his music to the masses. The resultant “Folk ’n’ Roll” recordings from 2007 became a watershed moment for Lizotte and while membership has changed in his band, the Plain Steel, over the years some lucky coincidence brought the old gang back together. In 2017, the five surviving members of the classic “Folk ’n’ Roll” lineup reunited to make a new album celebrating the band’s tenth anniversary. That album was released in November 2018 online but this week, the vinyl version is officially released with a live concert celebration.
“I was happy making music just in the studio back in 1999 but I formed a little folk group in 2007 that became more electrified in 2008 and that was the birth of the Plain Steel,” says Lizotte. “It just happened that we were lucky enough to bring everyone back at the same time. To make the new record, we brought back everybody from that original lineup. People leave and come back in a circular fashion or in a rotating cast of characters. Everyone's an original except Jason but he’s played with me for a few years now.”
This particular collection of songs is very dark and brooding in the vein of Nick Cave or like Ray Davies singing some Tom Waits songs. The band has always veered from folk to blues to psychedelia and progressive rock but this self–titled release best encapsulates what the Plain Steel is for Lizotte.
“This album is the closest representation of my original goal of blending folk and rock, electric and acoustic.” says Lizotte. “I wanted it heavier than folk but lighter than rock and roll but with a deeply emotional impact. I think this album comes the closest to that, if not thee representation of this style of music. I thought a lot about what to call this album but ultimately listening back to it, I realized this a record that could only be created by specific people. It’s ultimately the best representation of the Plain Steel itself. That's why it’s self–titled. This record is the first I’ve made that I can wholly enjoy listening to without the bias of having made it. It sounds like a good record to me — something I would buy if somebody else had made it. It’s the first time it’s happened and I’m really happy with that.”
The band is already working on a new collection of songs tentatively set for release at the beginning of 2020 but a live concert this week offers a chance to experience what the band does in a live setting.
“As much as I’d call us Hamilton’s Beach Boys — just one big dysfunctional family — it’s not so and we actually get along with each other and it showed on the recordings we made,” says Lizotte. “We actually had this album finished a year ago and the vinyl took some time. The next album is already done but I've got to work on some other things to complete the artwork and mechanical licensing. It will be a record that rewards the fans for everyone that’s been with us and a cool LP for those just tuning in recently.
“For this show, it’ll be largely the greatest hits of the Plain Steel but we’re going to focus more on the mellow psychedelic sounds that we have,” adds Lizotte. “We’re focusing on the acoustic and electric blend but there will be a couple of rock songs. I hope all of the old fans and people that don’t have the records and want to buy the records come out. When you buy a record it has value just for being that. Vinyl is the only format that you can’t duplicate in your own home and there’s value in that so it’s still very special to release our music on vinyl. I can definitely say this is our best album yet so we hope everyone comes out to celebrate it but we’re not a band that you come and dance to or get into a mosh pit — we’re a band that you listen to.”
The Plain Steel plays this Thursday October 3 at This Ain't Hollywood with Monte Carlo Band and Orbit. Doors open at 8pm and $10 gets you in. Click on theplainsteel.com