Welcome

Welcome to the website of the Montreal folkgrass trio Steel Rail. Strong original material, superb three-part harmonies and hot picking have helped Tod Gorr, Ellen Shizgal and Dave Clarke win a loyal fanbase in Central Canada. After almost a decade of living on opposite ends of the continent, the threesome are back together in Quebec, making new acoustic music that reflects the best of the folk, bluegrass and country traditions.

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Autumn leaves 

 

We're happy to unveil our new band portrait, courtesy of talented Montreal photogapher John Mahoney. He shot Dave, Ellen and Tod on Thanksgiving weekend in the Laurentians near Prévost, Quebec. Mission: to come up with a cover photograph for Steel Rail's upcoming album Coming Home.

In the process, he also did some new portraits for posters, presenters and the press. Here's the one that resulted from a vote by band members and Tod's family. Stay tuned for more album news in the run-up to the album launch as part of the Wintergreen Concert Series at Le Petit Campus on April 25, 2020.

(And yes, that is a new banner at the top of our home page, part of that same Oct. 12, 2019, photo shoot. Thanks, John.)

New album news 

 

 

The photo at the top left is Steel Rail team getting mentally prepared for the next set of recording sessions for the upcoming Steel Rail album.

Actually Dave, Ellen and Tod were scouting locations for the album cover, which is being shot next weekend. Inspiration took them to the top floor of SR headquarters in Prévost, where renovations are in full swing. While they were up there, they recreated one of their favourite unofficial band portraits, right, taken outside the venerable Ottawa venue Irene's a couple of decades ago . (Twenty-plus years, for those keeping track.)

Recording sessions for the album, Coming Home, continue at Fast Forward studios in Notre Dame de Grâce under the watchful eyes of producers Bill Garrett and Dave Clarke and engineer Rob Heaney. We're gearing up for the band's official album launch at Matt Large's Wintergreen Series on April 25, 2020. Stay tuned!

 

Steel Rail summer update 


The hot weather hasn't kept Tod, Ellen and Dave from regular practices as they gear up for the next round of recording sessions for the upcoming Steel Rail album. The album, tentatively titled Coming Home, is taking shape in N.D.G.'s Fast Forward studio under the watchful eye of producer Bill Garrett and engineer Rob Heaney. Stay tuned for more news.

One summer night in Baie-d'Urfé 

Thanks to everyone who came out to the bandshell at the Fritz Community Centre for last night's free show along the lakeshore. The weather was great, the setting was splendid -- one of the most beautiful places the band has ever played -- and there was something sublime about listening to acoustic music and three-part harmonies while watching the sailboats out on the St. Lawrence.

As Keith Fyckes, one of the organizers, promised, the temperature was perfect and the mosquitos didn't really come out until after the last note was played. Thanks to Keith and Louise Otmar for booking us in the Baie-d'Urfé summer concert series.

Steel Rail now hunkers down for pre-production on the long-threatened new album. Look for more updates as the process gears up. Till then, happy summer, everyone.

P.S. For those who came expecting The Last Thing on My Mind, apologies. The song was punted at the last minute for Flower in the Wildwood, another old favourite, and a cover version of one of our favourite waltzes, Evangeline, written by Robbie Robertson. 

 

Sweet sounds on the Baie -- Baie-D'Urfé, that is 

We're hoping Montrealers, especially those of you on the West Island and Off Island, will be able to join us for a free outdoor concert Thursday night, July 12, at 7:30 p.m. in beautiful Baie-D'Urfé. The show will go on, rain or shine, either at the bandshell at the Fritz Community Centre, 20 477 Chemin Lakeshore (that's the shine location) or at the Red Barn, 20 609 Lakeshore if it rains.

You'll hear some Steel Rail originals along with some of the band's own bluegrass and folk favourites, including Tom Paxton's The Last Thing on My Mind, a mainstay of the SR repertoire at the beginning, and specially resurrected for this concert. 

It's supposed to be a balmy but not broiling summer night, you'll be near the river, and of course if you are coming from central Montreal, you will have the satisfaction of having survived the Turcot in your commute!

You can see how to find us here.. Bring the family and your summer cool!

Great to see you, Toronto friends 

It was great to see old friends and new at our concert in Toronto last night. It was a treat to be able to try out some of the new material for our upcoming album on such receptive ears, and to hear so many people singing along with old favourites like That's How the Summer Slips Away, Prairie Sky, and I'll Fly Away. (Not to mention getting into the fun of some surprise key changes and a persnickety amp.)

Special thanks to Lillian Wauthier and the terrific group of volunteers at Acoustic Harvest who made our time in the Bluffs so pleasant.  And a big shout-out to engineer/sound man/musician/mensch Jason LaPrade, who made everything sound so good. As always.

It was also a pleasure to hear a too-short opening set from the terrific Longview, Alta.,-based duo Over the Moon,  who play tight cowboy-, bluegrass- and Western swing-inflected originals and covers. Do yourself a favour and check them out if they are playing in your neighbourhood.

Thanks again to everyone who joined us Saturday night.

Making new memories in the Big Smoke, a.k.a. Toronto 

We dug this photo out of the Steel Rail vaults from around the time of our first gig in Toronto about 20 years ago. That was on the heels of our first album release. Two decades later, we're looking forward to making more music and more memories with our Toronto-area friends. Hope to see you all at the Acoustic Harvest concert on June 2 at St. Nicholas Anglican Church, 1512 Kingston Rd., just east of Warden. Doors at 7:30, concert at 8. Details here.

Hope you can join us in Toronto June 2! 

 

We'll be celebrating the start of summer with a concert in the Acoustic Harvest series in Toronto June 2. (I know it looks like we are celebrating Dave's birthday in this photograph, but we wanted to get into the spirit of things!) (Or spirits, as you can see.)

We'll be previewing new material for our long-rumoured new album, along with some new covers, including one of our favourite Gillian Welch songs, Annabelle.

I hope you can join us. The concert is at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 2, at St. Nicholas Anglican Church, 1512 Kingston Rd., Toronto (one block east of Warden Ave.) Tickets cost $22 in advance, $25 at the door. For more information, call 416-729-7564 or click here.

 

 

Great to see you all! 

Thanks to our friends in Kitchener for a great evening of music and companionship on April 8. We had an amazing time at the Registry Theatre, one of our favourite venues, as part of the Old Chestnuts Song Circle series. We were delighted to see Jay Linden, who opened for Steel Rail a decade ago when we last performed in Kitchener. Jay's opening set was short but sweet; his albums sold out before we could get our hands on the latest one.
The Steel Rail part of the Registry gig featured a number of new songs slated for the upcoming SR album as well as a tune or two we played the last time around in KW. A fine time was had by all.
Thanks to everyone who made it happen, including Jack and Lori Cole (that's him on the Registry stage, above) and many friends from the Woods music camp, an extraordinary group of musicians and human beings. What a privilege to connect again.
The night before we reconnected with other friends at a house concert in Toronto chez Eve Goldberg and Ellen Long. The vibe was warm and the company divine. We're grateful to the two E's, who presented us in their first-ever house concert.
We're spending the next while focusing on the next Steel Rail album; details soon.
 

Ontario countdown 

A week before our three-day Ontario sortie, Tod, Ellen and Dave spent Saturday afternoon honing the set list for our gigs in Kitchener and Toronto. The result: a lot of new material and some Steel Rail chestnuts in honour of our hosts in Kitchener, the Old Chestnuts Song Circle. (Although those of you who are musicians will know that the set list is never really final until about a minute before the show, and even then....) 
Our Toronto house concert Friday, April 7, is sold out (thank you Eve Goldberg and Ellen Long, our hosts). There are still a few tickets left for our Saturday, April 8, show at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener. We're really looking forward to reconnecting with Jack and Lori Cole and our musical friends in KW next weekend.
In the meantime, here is a look at the green-tea-fuelled set list triage process.
Hope to see some of you next weekend in Ontario.

Happy new year, everyone

We're starting 2019 with a chilly flashback -- Tod walking down the centre of a secondary highway in west-central Quebec in what became the cover for our first release, A Thousand Miles of Snow.
A couple of things about the photo, taken by our talented friend Nancy Ackerman. 1. It truly was freezing that early March day near Rigaud. 2. You can faintly see some car headlights materializing over Tod's right shoulder. Several other vehicles, including an 18-wheeler, were dodged before Nancy finally got this shot.
Speaking of releases, we are happy to report that Steel Rail is finally in a studio working on some tracks for our next album. Like A Thousand Miles of Snow, it is being co-produced by our good friend Bill Garrett. We'll keep you posted re: progress as the winter progresses.
In the meantime, all the best for 2019.