The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer – Live At The King Eddy
Tonic Records – 2022
12 tracks; 58 minutes
Canadian duo Shaun Hall (harp/vocals) and Matthew Rogers (guitar) got together in 2006 as The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer and have released six previous albums. This is their first live album and was recorded over three nights at The King Eddy in Calgary, using the famous Rolling Stones Mobile Studio which was used to record Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street for the Stones as well as a host of other acts like Deep Purple, Fleetwood Mac and The Who. The duo has acquired quite a reputation as a live act and this album draws on their previous releases to present a vivid picture of how they sound live. It also marks a period during which each man has branched out with solo projects, so this may be a final summary of their duo work, depending on how they proceed from here. They are aided on stage by backing vocalists Dawn Pemberton and Andrina Turenne and keyboardist Geoff Hillhorst, but the essence of the band is the guitar/harp combination. Musically you can hear influences as diverse as Hill Country blues, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, rock and country, a real mix.
Opener “Cry A Little” is a good summary of the band’s basic sound, dominated by Matt’s rhythm work behind Shaun’s vocals and harp interventions. Perhaps deliberately, Shaun’s vocals are rather back in the mix, so the rhythm set by the guitar is the dominant feature though the foot-tapping rhythm is helped along by the backing vocalists who add a gospel tinge to the tune. “Mama’s In The Backseat” is even more uptempo, adding a bit of a country hoedown feel, before the keyboards are featured in spacey mode on “Do Whatcha”, a steady paced tune that recalls “Smokestack Lightning”. “Pretty Please” is a frantic rocker as Shaun begs his girl for her attention before “Roll With The Punches” takes us firmly into Hill Country territory, led by the harp and some thick slide work by Matt.
The only song from outside the band is “Hard On Things”, written by fellow Canadians Corin Raymond and Robert Vaarmeyer. It marks a change of pace for the band, thereby acting as something of a mid-point album interlude before the chugging pace of “Love Me ‘Fore Ya Leave Me” returns to the generally uptempo approach, the vocalists again well featured. “Sarah” sounds like a woman to treasure: “Sarah, my sexy Sarah, you make me happy, so very happy, like a hippie listening to the Grateful Dead”! “Father’s Son” returns to the Hill Country blues side of the band before a reprise of “Roll With The Punches”, on which Dawn takes a lead role this time around, combined with “Sweat This Pain”. On the album sleeve this is the final track, but in fact there are two additional cuts not listed on the artwork: “Get Out” is an extended track typical of the band’s upbeat repertoire before “Treat Me Kind” acts as a short, quiet finale to the show.
If the duo’s separate projects do take them in separate directions, this disc may be a final summary of their career, in which case existing fans will definitely want a copy.