Considering their indisputably justified reputation as one of Canada’s most incendiary live propositions, and that it’s been a full 15 years since Shawn Hall and Matthew Rogers began crafting their unique twist on the blues, it’s amazing that it’s taken until this point in The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer’s career to emphatically underline said reputation with the release of a live album. And what a time it is for them to do so, when as a natural consequence of the pandemic the world has for so long been deprived of the singularly intense euphoria, emotional release, and human connection that only live music can deliver. As such, Live at the King Eddy bears ternary significance as a sizzling auditory document of a phenomenal live band, a much needed salve for the soul, and - as if it were needed - a mouthwatering reminder of the ecstatic collective experiences we’ve so badly missed – yet, one day soon, will be able to revel in once more. Together.
However, in a manner that has come to be expected from Shawn and Matt, this is no ordinary live album. For a band of their prominence and notoriety in the live arena, the recording had to be special, an event. And so it was, captured by none other than The Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. Now a marquee component of the Cantos Music Collection at the National Music Centre in Calgary, between 1970 and 1990 the studio was used to record a breathtaking array of classic masterpieces, including four Led Zeppelin albums, three by Deep Purple, two by Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, The Who (Who’s Next), Bob Marley & the Wailers (Live!), Santana, Dire Straits, Ten Years After, Iron Maiden, and many more, as well as Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street by the Stones themselves. With Live at the King Eddy Shawn and Matt now join that dizzying, legendary company as the first ever Canadian band to be recorded by the esteemed “Rolling truck Stones thing,” as Deep Purple affectionately termed it.
Carefully assembled from the most powerful performances of a three-night residency at Calgary’s historically iconic blues mecca, the King Edward Hotel, between February 15th and 17th, 2019, Live at the King Eddy arrives as the latest instalment of an already storied career that has to date produced six stunning studio releases. Following the independently released, raw folk and country-blues excursions of 2007’s The Blues Can Kill and the following year’s eponymous album, vocalist and harmonicist Shawn – the Harpoonist – and guitarist Matt – the Axe Murderer – truly hit their stride and found their sound on 2012’s Checkered Past. Also issued under their own steam, while it established a contemporary blues identity entirely their own, such was the elemental blues authenticity embedded deep therein that one fan was moved to sanctify the duo as “a 21st century version of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.”
A Real Fine Mess, followed in 2014, by which time The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer’s relentless touring and increasingly fervid performances had garnered the duo a national reputation, with inroads overseas also gathering pace. The demand generated by the duo’s fast-rising stock saw Tonic reissue the Juno-nominated and Western Canadian Music Awards double-winning A Real Fine Mess as an expanded edition in 2015, and their songs finding regular placement in blockbuster TV shows, including CSI and The Good Wife.
The decidedly more experimental, psychedelically-rinsed Apocalipstick dropped in 2017, the opening lines of the first track, Get Ready, eerily presaging the extraordinary world events to unfold in the next four years: Get ready for the hard times / Get ready for the heavy load / Get ready for the who knows what.
May 2021 saw the digital release of Post Apocalipstick, for which Shawn and Matt revisited the source Apocalipstick material to inventively reimagine 9 of the original 13 tracks, but that aside both artists have remained busy and sharply focused throughout the unavoidably distractive pandemic.
Matt has continued to passionately apply himself to his parallel career as a composer of music for film, which actually predates the initial chance meeting with Shawn that led to their creative alliance. To this end, for feature films, TV movies, and one short film Matt has produced an astonishing 15 scores or incidental music in 2020 and 2021 alone.
Within frustrating sight of the pandemic’s official declaration, Shawn had launched The Satellite & the Harpoonist, an ongoing side project involving members of The Deep Dark Woods, The Boom-Booms, and King Missile III. Their superb, 6-track debut release, the Satellite Man EP, announced the new band, but with COVID-19 dictating that touring plans were derailed for both his bands for the foreseeable future, the irrepressible Shawn channeled his bountiful energy and years of studio experience into opening The Dress Shop, a recording studio in the heart of Nanaimo’s downtown core. His fiancée Lindsay’s bridal store was an economic victim of the pandemic, so with their backs against the wall the couple embarked upon a joint venture, with Shawn opening his studio above Lindsay’s Pearl, a kimono, jewelry, and plants store named for their dog! With The Dress Shop, Hall’s intention, he says, is to “flood the streets with the magic that needs to go into people’s ears and hearts.” Right on.
Featuring powerful contributions from Vancouver soul powerhouse Dawn Pemberton, Winnipeg-based professional session singer Andrina Turenne, and keyboardist Geoff Hilhorst (The Deep Dark Woods / The Satellite & the Harpoonist), Live at the King Eddy was mixed by Graham Lessard (Timber Timbre / Kevin Drew / The Barr Brothers) at the National Music Centre, and heads out into the world on November 26th, 2021.
At this juncture of The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer’s journey, regardless of their enforced absence from the road a live album is a logical release. Live at the King Eddy closes a 15-year chapter, paving the way for…well, as Shawn ardently hollers on Get Ready… who knows what. Whatever may lay ahead for him and Matt musically, it’s certain to deliver good vibes, rock, groove, and soul in abundance.
"This duo is making some of the most gritty, raw and muddy music north of Mississippi.”
“A gritty and funky treat.” – Exclaim!
“A Real Fine Mess accomplishes everything a good blues record ought to – it’s assertive, organic, and infectious, and continually looks forward while paying homage to the past.”
– Blues Rock Review
“Inventive and infectious.”
– Roots Music Report
“A mashup of good-times bar blues, old-fashioned Chuck Berry-style rock and roll and Talking Heads-like funk breakdowns.”
– NOW Magazine
“An innovative high-water mark for two-person combos. … 14 fabulous tracks.”
– Winnipeg Free Press
“A truly fresh take on a whole mess of old sounds.”
– The Georgia Straight
“A Real Fine Mess promises to embed the harpoon and bury the axe in the body of popular rock and roll”
“This is a genre that demands an economy of words; TH&TAM make a real fine example of what raw, gut-deep soul sounds like for the rest of ‘em.”
“Their influences are wide ranging […] resulting in a unique musical cocktail. More than just straight up blues, though, A Real Fine Mess is laced with a cool funk groove that just sneaks up and grabs you before you even know you’re under attack.”
“This is one real fine mess you'll be glad you got into!”
– New Canadian Music
“There is much to be said for the electric grease and king-snake swagger of Shawn Hall and Matthew Rogers.”
– Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail
"The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer add a fresh take to the roots music genre via contemporary lyrics and arrangements, but maintain traditional structures and emotion. A welcome addition to the Canadian blues and roots music scene.’"
– Holger Peterson, CBC Saturday Night Blues
“You don’t even have to be a blues enthusiast to appreciate good music and what this duo has been creating is something that is beyond good. Their music is packed with a lot of heart, soul and sensual melody.”
– Gian Karla Limcangco, Vancouver Weekly
"The grisly vibe hovering like a murky London fog around the very words ‘Harpoonist’ and ‘Axe Murderer’ suits what and how they play.”
– Peter Goddard, Toronto Star
“Every time I see these guys live I am blown off my feet.”
– Vancouver Music Review
“This blues-rock duo harness the sound of a full band […] and have the entire place foot-stomping like it was a honky tonk. These two don't know how to disappoint a crowd, only how to move them.”
– Fingers On Blast
“Imagine taking the best part of your favorite rock radio station, and the best part of your favorite blues station, pushing it through a high-end juicer and then drinking the result. That may be an apt description of Vancouver duo Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer.”
– Michael Senchuk, Gig City
“They’ve been lumped in with world-class acts such as The White Stripes and The Black Keys, artists paying tribute to the blues through rock, but what HAM are offering is a whole other beast. […] What separates HAM from the rest is how they’re rapidly converting people to the blues with their brand of groin-grabbing rock.”
– Thomas Creery, Vancouver Weekly