By Keith Sharp
Top Canadian Country rock band, The Road Hammers may be noted for their energetic live performance, but with the release of their fifth studio album, The Squeeze, The Hammers continue to evolve as an accomplished recording group with a batch of 10 songs that reflect a synergy of Country Rock meeting Classic Rock.
In the midst of a whirlwind schedule of press interviews to mark the band’s May 12th launch, lead guitarist/vocalist Clayton Bellamy, who along with lead vocalist/guitarist Jason McCoy and bassist Chris Byrne, constitute the band’s creative force, enthused about the public’s initial response to The Squeeze and especially radio reaction to the band’s debut single “Crazy About You” which has already gone Top 10 on the charts.
Agreeing that the Hammers have continued to develop a sense of maturity in the studio, Bellamy noted they like to road-test their material before going into recording sessions but that there is more of a collaboration between band members on The Squeeze than on previous releases.
“People hear with their eyes and we have always set a goal to not only produce great music but to also put on a great show,” Bellamy explained. “If we are not having fun, it’s not coming across for us. That’s our barometer, when we are making records and writing songs, it has to be fun or the process doesn’t work.”
From the a Capella vocal opening of “Your Love Is A Drug” to the solid balance of anthemic Country rock tunes (“Party Girl”, “Down N Dirty”) with more melodic arrangements like on McCoy’s ode to his wife on “Crazy About You” or Bellamy’s touching lament cover of The Dawes’ “All Your Favourite Bands”, The Hammers have successfully projected their on-stage magnetism into the recording studio.
“You could say this is a relationship record, it’s just about our progress as writers and recording artists,” concurred Bellamy. “Yes there are still Road Hammer road songs like “Haulin Ass”, “Detroit Alllison” and “Down N Dirty” but there’s also songs which reflect our maturity. That a Capella opening to “Your Love Is A Drug” tries to show we are a strong vocal entity.”
The title track “The Squeeze” with it’s tag line “The juice is worth the squeeze” may sound a little salacious but Bellamy claims he came by that inspiration honestly. “It’s a saying my cousin uses all the time and I thought `Man that has to be the title of a song”, Bellamy explained.
When mentioned that “Easy Rider” is reflective of classic Southern Rock bands like The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd , Bellamy eagerly concurred. “Gregg Allman (who sadly passed away recently) was a huge inspiration of mine. I remember seeing The Allmans in concert when I was 18 and that prompted me to learn how to play electric guitar.”
It’s been 12 years since McCoy formed The Road Hammers as a side project to his own solo aspirations and although the band has endured a few ups and downs (including a brief three-year hiatus from each other in 2010), they have been a constant fixture on the Canadian Country music festival circuit ever since while expanding their reach into the U.S, Europe, Asia and even Australia.
“Breaking a Canadian country band in the U.S is always going to be tough,” noted the Bonneville Alberta native who himself lives in Nashville. “American Country music is American Folk music, there is a stigma that you have to record in Nashville to be considered relevant but we are trying to break down that resistance.”
Bellamy has recorded two solo albums; his latest `Five Crow Silver’ was released in 2013 and also hosts the Ice Racer Showdown reality TV show on CMT while McCoy also moonlights with his own band and is a popular co-host of the Country Music Association of Ontario Awards (which will be staged this coming weekend in London Ontario).
“There is definitely renaissance in Country music in Canada, great new bands like High Valley, Cold Creek County and Washboard Union (but we are better than any of them!”), Bellamy laughs mischievously. “No really, they are all great friends of ours, there’s a great friendship within the performers, there’s a great country music festival network, great radio support, and our fans have been very supportive.”
“This all makes us eager to get out there and play our music,” he concluded. “There’s a great dynamic within the band and we are intent on bringing `The Squeeze’ and the rest of our music to our fans around the world.”
Photos – Ted Van Boort