February 19, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 78  

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Men of Steel tug on their steel strings

By Ryan Pratt
Gazette Writer

More talented than those banal superman clones and less promiscuous than the porno website of the same name, Men of Steel may just be the finest guitar players you’ve never heard.

Comprised of Italian sensation Beppe Gambetta, American music legend Dan Crary, Scotland’s famous Tony McManus and Canada’s own Don Ross, Men of Steel not only represent a variety of countries, but also the very best in steel-stringed guitar playing.

“It’s really a guitar variety show,” Ross explains with excitement. “[We are] more focused on collaborations and combining styles than lots of solos.” Having returned to Canada following a string of successful shows in California, Ross is weary but inspired by the positive crowd responses throughout their current North American tour.

Each guitarist brings a unique outlook from their respective countries, combining the styles of folk, jazz, classical and Celtic music. “There is some modern influences in how I play, whereas the other three tend to prefer traditional music,” Ross admits, adding he finds his niche among such eclectic musicians. While he feels jaded by the hollowness of the Top 40, the world-renowned guitarist names Dave Matthews and Phish as inspiring redeemers of modern rock.

Formed just one year ago, Men of Steel have toured extensively throughout Europe, receiving praise from critics and audiences alike. As there is a strong fan base for each individual musician (all of who maintain solo careers), fans from international guitar circles have gathered to see a rare concert event.

Of course, such international success is accompanied by its share of touring chaos. “Since we are all on different airlines from different countries, there is always a question of who will get there first,” Ross laughs, noting the instruments themselves seem to take the majority of the travelling damage. The most recent incident left a hole in the back of Ross’ new baritone guitar.

Alongside their performances, Men of Steel have also become notorious for their guitar workshops. “Teaching guitar is rewarding, but difficult,” Ross says, noting the experience has introduced many friends and fans to the band. While these workshops spread the band’s love of the steel string to their fans over the course of an intimate afternoon, he is quick to point out that it doesn’t compare to his true passion.

“Performance on stage is like speeding down the highway in a stolen car,” he describes. “That kind of exhilaration can’t be found elsewhere.”

So what kind of advice does the internationally-distinguished musician offer aspiring guitarists and performers? “Two things: Be open-minded. A good listener [of music] will be a good player.

“Secondly, believe in what you do. Even if your style isn’t Top 40, eventually you’ll find people who want to listen. The people who are into this for the long haul are the ones who will indent music culture,” he says.

Before their next string of summer festivals in Europe, Ross and his comrades plan to record their upcoming Toronto show while working on new songs for a possible disc release. With all of the attention the band has received in its year of existence, it’s fair to say that the musical career advice of Don Ross is legitimate.

Men of Steel will be playing Centennial Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 25. Call 672-1967.

 

 

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