At one point during The Road Hammers’ explosive set at the 2016 Havelock Country Jamboree, a man placed an urn on the lip of the stage and started taking photographs. From the inscription on the urn, the ashes seemed to be those of the man’s father, possibly the departed person’s final bucket wish to appear on stage with his favorite band.
Lead vocalist/guitarist Jason McCoy, unaware of the urn’s presence on stage, on two occasions, came perilously close to booting those ashes into the 10th row of the festival’s reserved section, maybe not the ideal send-off the son of the deceased had in mind. Yet such an incident could have produced an ironic twist on how close this Hamilton Ontario based band is to their fans.
They may yet to have established any classic radio hits during the span of their three domestically released records but there’s no denying the high octane live performance which makes McCoy, guitarist Clayton Bellamy, bassist Chris Byrne and drummer Steve Broadhurst the consummate festival Country Rock band.
One of the many highlights appearing during the four-nights at the Havelock Country Jamboree, staged August 18th to August 21st, the festival now enjoying its 27th year of operation pulled some impressive crowds to the spacious park near Havelock Ontario, assembled to catch the likes of The Band Perry, Terri Clark, Sammy Kershaw, Jess Moskaluke, Scott McCreery, Chad Brownlee and The Road Hammers.
Only able to catch performances on the opening Thursday, the Music Express crew settled for reviewing the dual Canuck connection of Vancouver’s Chad Brownlee and the aforementioned Road Hammers – and the comparisons could not be more graphic.
The former Vancouver Canuck NHL draft pick, turned to music as his second love when injuries forced Brownlee to abandon his hockey career and since releasing his debut single, “The Best That I Can in 2009, the Kelowna native has developed a solid career through the release of four albums (`Chad Brownlee’ -2010, `Love Me Or Leave Me’ – 2012, `The Fighters’ (2014) and his recently released `Hearts On Fire’ Ep recording.
As a live act, Brownlee is a good-looking guy with a strong voice, decent material and an engaging personality but it’s obvious that he is still developing his stage chops. The lead player in a band needs to generate an aura of being the star attraction, yet in many ways, his back-up band are more engaging than he is.
Nothing wrong with his country-pop material with tracks off his new album “Hate You For It” and “Something We Shouldn’t Do” being extremely strong and hit numbers like “When The Lights Go Down”, ‘Smoke In The Rain”, “Hood Of My Car” and “Where The Party At” evoking a solid response from the audience.
Brownlee also displayed a passion for English blues/rocker Paul Rodgers, covering off Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love” and then engaging the crowd in an effective sing-a-long to the Free classic “All Right Now”.
However, a comparison between Brownlee and the Road Hammers is like night and day. Jason McCoy and his boys hit the stage and just don’t stop rocking with a perpetual energy that’s as draining for the audience as it is for the participants. Whether it’s McCoy himself bounding all over the stage or his Alberta sidekick, Clayton Bellamy leaping into the crowd and causing all sorts of consternation with the security detail, The Road Hammers exude total energy with their truck-driving songs.
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Whether it’s working “Black Betty” and “Folsom Prison Blues” into their signature “I’m A Road Hammer” composition, or paying tribute to the passing of Prince and The Eagles’ Glenn Frey by combining “Purple Rain” with “Take It Easy”, the Hammers’ represent none-stop action. Songs like “Girl On The Billboard”, “Homegrown” and “Mud” come complete with a spontaneous choreography which confirmed the band was having a great time. No wonder the Road Hammers should be top priority for any major concert festival promoter– and you kind of think that guy wouldn’t have minded too much if his dad had been sent airborne off the stage. Kicked into touch by the Road Hammers – what a way to go!