When Three Is Better Than One

November 28, 2023 4 min read

When Three Is Better Than One

Growing up as a young Canuck in the 1980s and 1990s, we were a bit spoiled with stuff to listen to. Of course, we had the usual diet of music from the United States (as we cannot escape it, being our neighbours to the south (see my piece on “The Star-Spangled Banner” for more on that one), mainly thanks to the 8-foot satellite dish my family had, giving us access to MTV.

In Canada, we had our version in MuchMusic, which, in being our music network, featured the work of several Canadian artists, including I Mother Earth, Our Lady Peace, The Tea Party, Holly McNarland, Big Sugar, and one of my particular favourites, Wide Mouth Mason and their guitar player Shaun Verreault.

Who Are Wide Mouth Mason?

The Saskatchewan trio of Shaun Verreault on guitar and vocals, Safwan Javed on drums and vocals and former bassist and vocalist Earl Pereira cranked out music that blended rock with elements of funk, blues and jazz, great three-part harmonies and killer songs. Shaun Verreault stood out as a talented musician on electric, acoustic and slide guitar, not to mention his voice, which could efficiently channel anything from Jimi Hendrix to Stevie Wonder and everything in between.

The group released several albums between 1997 and 2005 (particular standouts being their 1997 self-titled album, 1999’s Where I Started and 2000’sStew - produced by fellow Canadian guitar-slinger Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar) before Pieria departed and the group went on hiatus. Verreault released two solo albums during the first decade of the millennium, 2006’s The Daggerslip Sketches and 2008’s Two Steel Strings, consisting of acoustic-based singer-songwriter material.

Verreault would find work with Graph Tech (the creators of Tusq nuts and saddles that adorn many a guitar, among other products). During these years, he regularly posted videos to YouTube and Facebook that were particularly unique and interesting.

The Tri-Slide

For those who follow Verreault on social media, he posts many videos of him playing songs on Lap Steel and Dobro. What makes these unique is what is adorning his left hand.

Rather than the traditional bar used by lap and pedal steel players, he has three differing ball-ended slides on his fingers, one on his ring finger and two smaller ones on his index finger and thumb. He began working on a technique around 2014 when he was gifted a lap steel guitar. As he told the website Ear of Newt in 2021:

...playing standard style with one bar in my hand, everything I did sounded like an out-of-tune version of something that somebody else could do better. It just was really befuddling, because it’s a totally different set of muscles, and a totally different way of moving than playing bottleneck slide, which I had been doing for maybe 15 years at that point. It dawned on me that if I had more than one slide I could do more things, and it really sent me down a wormhole of experimentation and just making stuff up.

Much like everyone else, the pandemic kept him and his family home. However, it did give him some time to perfect the technique, incorporating melodies with comping not typically heard on the instrument. It also allows him to solo on the instrument in ways never heard of, pulling off rapid-fire lines that would make the typical slide player run in fear!

All you need to do is listen to the songs that he’s arranged with his Tri-Slide technique, from Stevie Ray Vaughan to Van Halen to Eric Johnson and everyone in between, often using a Peavey Robert Randolf Signature Lap Steel or a custom Mule Mavis Dobro.

Some may call it a gimmick; however, it's far from it now. Verreault has fully incorporated the Tri-Slide into Wide Mouth Mason’s music, featuring it prominently on the band’s last two albums: 2019’s I Wanna Go With You and 2023’s Late Night Walking. It is also common to see a Lap Steel or two at the ready at a Wide Mouth Mason show, ready to get tickled with three slides at a time.

A Small Club

If you’ve never dived into Verreault’s music (solo or with Wide Mouth Mason), you’re certainly in for a treat if you do. It’s all great music from one of the great classes of Canadian rock guitar players who broke out in the 1990s, along with I Mother Earth’s Jagori Tanna, Big Sugar’s Gordie Johnson and The Tea Party’s Jeff Martin.

To see Verreault play with three slides on lap steel is also a sight to behold. Having refined the technique, he can pull melodies and accompaniment with great precision and fantastic tone. 

As far as I can see, he’s also one of a tiny club of players doing some version of this. A quick search of lap steel slide players who use multiple slides shows a smattering of players who have done some technique variation (such as Brian Cober and Timmy Twang), but these are few and far between. There’s a lot of room for innovation, but Verreault already appears well ahead of the pack in this playing style. No one seems to come close to what he’s done with the instrument. 

It is a small club, but to paraphrase Groucho Marx, I would happily join if they’d have me as a member. With a company like that, who wouldn’t? Now, where did I put all my slides?

By Kevin Daoust - instagram.com/kevindaoust.gtr

Kevin Daoust is a guitarist, guitar educator and writer based in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. When not tracking guitars for artists around the world, or writing music-related articles around the internet, he can be seen on stage with Accordion-Funk legends Hey, Wow, the acoustic duo Chanté et Kev, as well as a hired gun guitarist around Quebec and Ontario. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Guitar Performance from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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