National Dust was formed in late 1997 by Lorrie Matheson (lead vocals, guitar), Peter Clarke (bass), Ross Watson (drums), and Gord Adam (lead guitar).
Their live debut was on January 3, 1998 at the Night Gallery Cabaret, and after one more show that month, the band was chosen as one of five for a MuchMusic Calgary Music special, filmed on February 4.
Their debut album, "blind luck ain't no luck at all", was recorded in a whirlwind 12-hour session in February 1998 at Airwaves Studios. Shortly after the release of the CD, close friend of the band, Tim Leacock, became a full-time member (he appears on the CD as a guest musician). Playing guitar, mandolin and harmonica, he also added rich background vocals. For the remainder of the year, National Dust performed as a five-piece around Calgary and Edmonton. In January of 1999, Gord Adam left the band to pursue other musical endeavours and National Dust returned to a four-piece line-up, with Leacock taking over a larger guitar-playing role.
National DustMuch of 1999 was spent working on new material and expanding the scope of the National Dust sound to include the country-folk introspection of Matheson's "Before You Wear the Grindstone Down", the power-pop inspired "Welcome to Utopia" and "Turnaround", as well as Tim Leacock's songwriting and lead-vocal debut, the heartland rocker "Down Again".
National Dust continued to win over fans, playing songs from "blind luck" and test driving the new tunes in front of a wide variety of audiences, including an acclaimed appearance at the Calgary Folk Festival alongside performers such as Steve Earle, The Violent Femmes, Joan Baez and Freakwater, and opening for the likes of Austin singer-songwriter Kelly Willis, Hank Williams III and Reverend Horton Heat on various club dates.
July 2000 saw the band going into the studio to record their follow-up album with Young Dave Alcock (local producer/engineer and member of Calgary's pop-punk heroes Chixdiggit) behind the board. The recording made good on the promise of the past year's live shows, revealing more layers of the already-established Dust sound. With the crack rhythm section of Watson and Clarke and the soulful playing of Leacock fleshing out sonically what the debut album only hinted at, Matheson's personal, bittersweet life-stories took on a whole new life in the studio, and the new album, entitled "Welcome to Utopia", proved to be the mature, well-crafted rock and roll record National Dust fans were waiting for.
National DustThe new album's release was celebrated with a show at the Night Gallery Cabaret on December 2, 2000, and there was no mistaking the impact this band has had on local music fans. With the crowd (including punk-rockers, indie-rockers, folkies, cowboys, bikers and bankers and at least one member of the Calgary City Council) swelling to 200 people over capacity, and a steady stream of patrons being turned away at the door half an hour before National Dust even took the stage, the band's adage "the song's the thing" rang true once again. Play good songs, the rest takes care of itself.
The last word goes to CBC Radio's Les Siemeniuk: "Now there's a million bands out there that are competent and play their instruments well. What sets National Dust apart for me are the songs. Lorrie Matheson has the ability to write lyrics that stick with you long after the song is over. He's a literate, passionate writer with a self-deprecating sense of humour. He doesn't come off an obvious whiner in his songs of love lost. He seems to be puzzled by life and how exactly to get a handle on it. He gets angry but never gets mean- he gets sad but never maudlin, and in the end there is always a smile in the words. That raises you above life's daily grind. He has the ability to put his lyrical sentiments into tunes that are laden with infectious hooks and choruses that you find yourself humming later in the day. The band then takes these well-crafted songs and infuses them with an energy and a style that harks back to the past, yet is entirely their own."