You can almost smell the industrial smoke and see the glow of steel furnaces in the words of Rodney DeCroo, who here captures a hard childhood on the banks of Pennsylvania’s filthy Allegheny River and its “phlegmy, dark-green clutch”. With director Jane Heyman, the singer-songwriter comes up with a compelling meld of spoken-word poetry, theatre, and country-noir music, interspersing his songs with stories that are sometimes devastating, sometimes bitterly funny. He’s best at finding the childhood wonder amid the grit (marvelling at two hunks of pig iron “black as crow feathers”) and insight amid abuse, in songs like the damaged ballad “War-Torn Man”. Bassist Mark Haney’s deep bowing and plucking add particularly haunting and brooding punctuation to the tales. Using only a sparse set, DeCroo builds a real, heart-aching intimacy over 50 minutes.
At the Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab on September 10 (8:30 p.m.), 11 (5 p.m.), 12 (10:30 p.m.), 13 (7 p.m.), 14 (8:30 p.m.), and 15 (6:30 p.m.)