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Music Review: Road Hammers Live Saskatoon, SK – May 7, 2009

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Recently I caught The Road Hammers at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, SK where they were the supporting act for country superstars Montgomery Gentry. Being only a casual fan of the current country music scene, I couldn't tell you exactly how it came to be that Canadian country star Jason McCoy picked up a second career as a member of a more-rock-than-country band that focuses on songs about truck driving.  Teamed up with Clayton Bellamy on lead guitars and vocals is Chris Byrne on bass and vocals and McCoy's lead voice and own lead guitar skills, The Road Hammers struck me as closer to bands like The Georgia Satellites, Jason and the Scorchers, or maybe a rocked up version of Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives than what typically comes out of mainstream Nashville.

The show was good – real decent sound. Drums were on a riser built like the cab of a truck, complete with working stacks smokin' and lights workin'. The first thing outta the PA system was a big blast of feedback ringing long and loud, and McCoy saying, "Turn that UP!" Then the three part acapella harmony of "Freewheelin'" descending onto the drop tuned drone riff – it made me think of BTO for some reason, and Allman Brothers harmony guitars,  and wah wah pedals. And a talk box (!).

McCoy didn't steal the spotlight either – Clayton Bellamy is a roots rocker in his own right (he opened for Dwight Yoakam in this very venue a couple years back), and he took a few lead vocal turns as well. Great guitar tone, I think he might've been playing through an old Hiwatt amp.  During a guitar change, he threw his Les Paul through the air to his roadie like some old English rock star from the classic era. Yep, Bellamy knows his roots and isn’t afraid to display them in front of an audience.

What else can I say? They looked and sounded comfortable comfortable and have a chemistry onstage, which isn’t easy when you’re trying to fit into a particular genre of music even though you sound a lot like you might belong elsewhere. I mean, they sound country enough to be playing country, but they’re right on the edge of abandoning the twang tone for the black cat bone.  I think I even caught a hint of Deep Purple’s "Highway Star" on their first album somewhere.

In any case, I think this band is ready for headline status. They’re currently touring a new album released in Canada, (Road Hammers II), but their American CDs aren’t configured the same, so maybe there’s yet a different album in the works for an upcoming U.S. release. But if The Road Hammers ever take a trip through your neighbourhood, the put a show worth checking out. And that’s a big 10-10 from me, over and outta here.

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