On Monday night Dryden music enthusiasts were struck down by West Coast primal blues duo The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer at The Centre.
For the past 12 years, BC’s Shawn “The Harpoonist” Hall and Matthew “The Axe Murderer” Rogers have been working together and developing their music, a blend of folk-flavoured blues that over the years has melded with the sharp electric tones and heavy percussion of rock.
Hall and Rogers, along with backup vocalist Andrina Turenne of St. Boniface, MB, greeted the crowd and dove right in with “Forever Fool” from their latest album “Apocalipstick”, followed by a cover of Corin Raymond’s “Hard on Things”, setting the tone for a dynamic but low-key concert.
“I just love the energy so far,” said Dave Darling during intermission. “That real gritty sound… the Entertainment Series is great because they take risks once in a while with something like this, something that doesn’t typically show up in town.”
The concert was all about the sound, and all about the atypical. Hall’s voice showed incredible range and versatility, from wailing, tight highs to gravelly deeps that brought to mind a gruffer Caleb Followill, the frontman for Kings of Leon. Between verses, Hall played his harmonica in easy solos and riffs quick enough to burn.
Rogers hung each song together with heavy and relentless percussion, played by both feet, while answering Hall’s voice with bright but subtle electric guitar, leaning forward more than a few times to tap a cymbal without missing a note. Turenne’s talented vocals lent depth and roundness to the melody and balanced Hall’s sharper and higher-pitched verses.
The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer’s stage presence and energy was enough to coax the audience into participating, and a few enthusiastic music-lovers danced at the foot of the stage at Hall’s invitation. Between songs, the trio bantered about Dryden’s winter and BC’s rain, playing on trains in Australia, their last show in Sioux Lookout, and how they’ve “managed to squeeze a career out of doing… no hits.”
Regardless of whether or not they’ve had the kind of success you hear on the radio, The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer have reached acclaim across Canada, winning Blues Artists of the Year at the 2018 Western Canadian Music Awards (WCMAs) and several nominations from the Annual Maple Blues Awards (AMBAs) in Toronto, including Entertainer of the Year (2018, 2014) and New Artist/Group of the Year and Recording of the Year (2013).
Their third independent album “Checkered Past” (2012) won the Sirius XM 2013 Indies Award’s Blues Artist/Group of the Year and was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2013 ABMAs. Under Tonic Records, their fourth album “A Real Fine Mess” (2014) was nominated for Blues Album of the Year at the 2014 Juno Awards, and won Blues Recording of the Year and Independent Album of the Year at the 2015 WCMAs. Hall was also nominated for Harmonica Player of the Year in both the 2018 and 2014 AMBAs.