The Trews: Den of Thieves

I grew up in Nova Scotia, which is in Atlantic Canada. Nova Scotia has traditionally been a haven of Celtic music acts, but only in the last 15 or 20 years have any bands been making the next step into national and even international success. Sloan comes to mind and, to a lesser extent, Joel Plaskett. But there are two new bands from the province that people would do well to seek out – one is Matt Mays & El Torpedo, the other is The Trews.

The Trews are a four-piece from New Glasgow who have been plying their craft for a few years now. But a helping hand came in the form of Big Sugar guitarist Gordie Johnson, and a second came last year when the group had the good fortune to open for the Rolling Stones at the band’s pre-tour warm-up show at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert.

Den of Thieves, produced by the legendary Jack Douglas, is the best album that the Black Crowes never put out – guitar-heavy, moody, soulful and Southern. Led by brothers and guitarists John-Angus MacDonald and Colin MacDonald, the group strike gold with the simple but hook-drenched “Makin’ Sunshine” that is perfect rock radio material.

As if the Crowes comparison wasn’t suitable, just take a listen to the swampy “Cry” that would give Chris and Rich Robinson a run for their money circa The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion, complete with female harmonies and a touch of horns. And judging by the heavy, heady bridge on “Sweetness,” you know that it’s not a fluke. You can’t fake soul, passion or chops for the most part, which is what The Trews hit you with time after time. The highlight of the record (and there are a few) has to be the hard and groove-riddled “So She’s Leaving” that could be mistaken for something Big Wreck could have grown envious of. Somewhat poppy is the softer, mid-tempo “Yearning” which is okay, but pales to the previous nugget.

the tight, gear-changing “The Pearl (More Than Anything)” leaves a mark, going from a rapid punk guitar riff to a slower Southern-fried hard rock chorus. Meanwhile, sleeper picks like “Poor Ol’ Break Hearted Me” is another quality tune that revisits that swampy, Southern, muddy rock/soul that few can pull off this easily.

The slower, ballad-y tunes such as “Naked” aren’t outstanding and “Montebello Park” is okay at best. But fortunately they hit another high note with “The Traveling Kind” that makes you realize The Trews hit much more often than they miss.

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